- A two-year study out of Northwestern University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory looked at how music affects the central nervous systems of disadvantaged students, concluding that music can help reinforce language and reading skills.
- This was the first time a study specifically focused on the effects of music in an after school program for at-risk students, and not how private music lessons affect affluent students.
- While the study infers that music lessons can help close the achievement gap, it also noted that one year of music lessons was not enough to have an impact — students had to be engaged with the lessons for a longer period of time to see a difference in their language arts skills.
The researchers spent two summers at the Malibu-based Camp Harmony, a summer program for disadvantaged youth in the Los Angeles metro area. After music lessons, which the camp freely provides, researchers would hook students up to neural probes to test how they "distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills,” according to a press release. Students who had two summers of music lessons showed changes in their brain. From this, the researchers were able to conclude: "These findings are a testament that it’s a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if it’s an ongoing part of children’s education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.”
The research happened because Camp Harmony reached out to Northwestern. In the past, 90% of students who participated in the camp's free music program went to college, and the camp wanted to see if there was a correlation between the classes and academic success. “Now we know this success is rooted, at least in part, in the unique brain changes imparted by making music,” the founder of Harmony Project, Dr. Margaret Martin, said in the press release.
Perhaps schools should think twice before cutting music or art classes.