Over the last decade, there has been an inundation of research pointing to the positive benefits of music education. A number of studies identify music as a powerful tool for children to reach their intellectual, social and creative potential. Traditional research, however, has focused on in-class learning, where students interact with their teacher in real-time.
But what if in-class learning isn’t an option? What does the research say about the benefits of music education at home?
Online Music Education
With the current pandemic, parents and educators alike have turned their attention to online opportunities to teach everything from math to phys ed. Music education has entered the fray with a number of online resources aimed at continuing music education from a distance.
The good news? Whether it’s in a virtual or physical classroom, music has biological advantages. Research shows that participating in music study benefits both brain structure and brain function. Whereas exercise strengthens our muscles, protects bones and joints and reduces blood pressure while increasing energy levels, music education produces bigger, stronger, better brains.
“Our data have confirmed a rapid transfer of cognitive benefits in young children after only 20 days of music training,” said Dr. Sylvain Moreno of the Rotman Research Institute in an interview with the Royal Conservatory of Music. “The strength of this effect in almost all of the children was remarkable.”
There’s also substantial evidence to conclude that musical education supports better learning outcomes for children, including improved grades and test scores, in addition to skill growth in areas such as speech development, improved reading, and better comprehension. Yet there are several “soft skills” that evolve and mature with music education, beyond the curriculum.
Chris Thür, CEO and Founder of the virtual music educator company Yousician, tells Parentology that music contributes to more divergent thinking and creativity. “One study compared undergraduate music students with other students. Their task was to generate ‘uses’ for familiar objects — individual objects or combinations of 3-5 objects. Musicians generated more ‘’uses’ than non-musicians.”
These skills develop strong cognitive and social abilities in children, making music participation inherently rewarding.
“Music education can boost self-esteem, which can improve overall mental health and well-being,” says Thür, whose program “gamifies” the learning experience. They do this by presenting a series of musical challenges in a Guitar Hero-esque interface, then analyzing students as they play on real musical instruments before providing instant feedback and guidance. This process often leads to greater long-term engagement.
“The gamified aspect entices students to practice more, which allows for faster results than traditional methods,” Hadley Spanier, Head of Brand Marketing and Artist Relations at Yousician tells Parentology.
Helping with At-Home Learning
“One of the biggest challenges music teachers faced was finding an alternative solution to teaching in the classroom,” says Spanier. “Yousician addressed that need by creating Yousician for Teachers, a remote learning solution for music educators. We wanted to make sure music learning could continue during these difficult times, so we offered free access to the platform for all music educators and students globally.”
In addition to students, Yousician has also provided online guidance and resources to educators that identify how to engage their students using the platform. “Options include online video conferencing, with students following and playing along from home, or assigning students tasks to be completed individually,” Spanier says.
While no one is thrilled with nation-wide school closures, music education offers some bright spots. This new model allows students to learn at their convenience, in the comfort of their own home, and without the time constraints that typically come with an hourly school schedule. In the end, the benefits of music education are great — no matter where the student is getting it.