Children, Music and Academics: What is the Connection?
This study is vital in expanding the development of children. Though it has been proven that children who are enrolled in music lessons consistently have higher IQ levels (Schellenberg, 2015) as well as higher intelligence levels (Hallam, 2010), there is a research gap in relation to enrollment in music lessons and the academic world specifically. This study aims to fill that research gap. If it is found that there is indeed a connection between academia and music lessons, it is logical to build upon this study by integrating music lessons into the lives of children. If there is no apparent connection or causation that exists between academia and music lessons, they do not necessarily need to be worked into academia or the lives of children for academic reasons. Perhaps integration should take place for enjoyment purposes or to expand musical knowledge.
Early learning expert Jennifer Cooper (2016) asserts that incorporating the arts (in this case, music) into school curriculum lets children engage in the basics of subjects like math and science while still allowing them to be creative and expand their knowledge. She notes that it is vital that children engage in music and music lessons to aid them in succeeding in the academics. Music (and other forms of art) teaches children the discipline and patience that they need in their academic careers (Cooper, 2016). Cooper (2016) supports the claim that music lessons should be incorporated in children’s lives for academic reasons. If Cooper’s assertion proves itself to be true in my research, it would then be vital for society to recognize that there are benefits of enrolling children in musical lessons.
Children who are actively involved in music lessons are found to have higher intelligence levels, longer attention spans, more creativity, better social skills, higher concentration, and higher self-confidence levels than children who are not involved with music lessons (Hallam, 2010). These rewards, however, are only found when the music student finds the overall experience to be satisfactory and gratifying (Hallam, 2010). Motivation levels fluctuate depending on the child’s enjoyment of the music lessons (Rife, Shnek, Lauby, & Lapidus, 2001). If a child does not find music lessons to be fun or rewarding, he or she will no longer desire to continue these lessons (Rife et al., 2001). Overall, satisfaction levels of children in music lessons are high (Rife et al., 2001). In addition to the child’s motivation levels fluctuating with their happiness, the amount of practice put in by the child also changes depending on whether or not they enjoy their lessons (Rife et al., 2001). Generally, children tend to practice more when they are satisfied with their lessons (Rife et al., 2001).
Confidence bursts, intellectual capacity levels, and overall character development start to drastically rise around elementary school age children (Smirnov, Anufriev, Davydova, Ganicheva, & Tsilinko, 2016). In regard to music lessons, the psychological and emotional aura of the lessons are key in understanding a child’s satisfaction (Smirnov et al., 2016). If the child is interested in the lessons, thus expressing joy, the content is more likely to stick with the child (Smirnov et al., 2016). Smirnov et al. (2016) notes that “the initial stage of teaching one should follow empirical direction of cognition, excite children’s inquisitive curiosity and initiative, develop their sensational and emotional qualities: fantasy, imagination, open-mindedness” (p. 2). If these qualities emerge strongly, comprehension and analytical skills will consequently increase (Smirnov et al., 2016). Since children are so easily emotionally, physically, and psychologically influenced, music lessons with high satisfaction of the student can be monumental in developing confidence levels, creativity, comprehension, and analytical skills. Not only will these traits become apparent when studying music, but also still exist within the education realm of the child’s life through academic success.
In Kenya, music is integrated into the entire curriculum for elementary level children (Akuno, 2015). Akuno (2016) studied six, seven, and eight year olds to test if the musical environment that they are exposed to is indeed aiding them in expanding their knowledge. Through this study, she discovered that the intent of integrating music into all curriculum was so that the children could capture facts about topics such as the weather and numbers (Akuno, 2015). She found that the children were indeed more inclined to learn this factual information when it was prompted by song or by instrument (Akuno, 2015). Furthermore, the children were more easily able to recall the information when asked by thinking about the specific song or musical pattern that was taught to them for that specific piece of information (Akuno, 2015). Thus, the incorporation of music lessons within traditional academic subjects was extremely beneficial for the students primarily on a memory standpoint (Akuno, 2015).
Engagement levels and willingness
It has been found that children do more than just practice music in their music lessons (Kooistra, 2016). Kooistra (2016) found that a child will tend to use the entire room to engage in his or her music lessons. This includes making music on non-musical instruments, such as tables or chairs (Kooistra, 2016). Students tend to use their entire bodies to comprehend the music that they are learning (Kooistra, 2016). This may include tapping their feet, clapping their hands, or bobbing their heads to understand rhythm (Kooistra, 2016). Kooistra (2016) also found that children in music lessons consistently believe in their ability to perform music.
Involving children in music lessons improves cognitive ability (Degé, Wehrum, Stark, & Schwarzer, 2014). Degé et al. (2014) conducted a study in which 91 children were observed through music lessons of different genre. Parenting, academic rigor and other demographics were also included in studying the children. The study indicated that there is a strong correlation between academic rigor and performance in music lessons (Degé et al., 2014). The researchers inferred through their study that there is a certain personality variable that exists within children who desire to participate in music lessons—this variable has to do with willingness to succeed, whether that is in the music realm or the academic realm (Degé et al., 2014). Thus, this study found that there is a correlation between academic rigor and music lessons, but did not discover that the cause of academic rigor (not success) was the music lessons themselves (Degé et al., 2014).
Soley and Spelke (2016) notes that children are extremely influenced by their peers. The two assert that music is a very universally understood concept like language, thus it would be logical for children to be influenced by the music choices of their peers (Soley & Spelke, 2016). In the study that pair carried out, children gravitated towards their peers who expressed to be fond of the same songs that they were (Soley & Spelke, 2016). Furthermore, Soley and Spelke (2016) played children popular songs to observe which children would link together based on similarities in recognizing certain songs. The two write that the participants were extremely influenced by musical choices of their peers (Soley & Spelke, 2016). Soley and Spelke write that “[r]egardless of the social roles played by music styles and music preferences, the present findings provide evidence that young children’s social choices are influenced by a form of cultural knowledge: knowledge of specific songs” (p. 116). This data is important in that it shows that children are easily influenced by each other—this includes their desire to participate in music lessons. If one child expresses their content with music lessons, other peers are likely to yearn to take lessons as well (Soley & Spelke, 2016).
IQ and Mental Development
Music lessons have been found to increase the IQ of children (Schellenberg, 2005). Along with that, it should be noted that activities done outside of school tend to raise IQ, depending on how closely the activities relate to school (Schellenberg, 2005). Overall, it has been found that children who are not involved in music lessons do not thrive nearly as much on an intellectual level as children who are involved in music lessons (Schellenberg, 2005). Russian psychologists Fomina, Maksimova, and Propisnova (2016) conducted a study that determined that children’s music motor skills impact mental development. Academic success is deeply impacted by mental development, especially for children (Fomina et al., 2016).
Literature Review Evaluation
It is clear that music lessons have a generally positive effect on children. With that, though, the child must be actively engaged and enjoy the lessons to get the complete benefits associated with the music lessons (Rife et al., 2001). That may require an interactive and kind teacher, as well as the child having an inherent or learned love for the music that is being taught. Children often experience rising intellectual levels, confidence levels, and begin developing character around the age that they begin elementary school (Smirnov et al., 2016). These developing children are often influenced heavily physically, psychologically, and emotionally (Smirnov et al., 2016). Akuno (2016) discovered that memory plays a large role in incorporating music into the lives of children in academia. Degé et al. (2014) as well as Kooistra (2016) found that children who are willing to participate in and enjoy music lessons are much more susceptible to succeeding in them and gaining the skills that can be acquired through them, such as cognitive ability. Soley and Spelke (2016) support this claim through studying children and finding that they are extremely influenced in their peers’ behavior—if their peer was excited about participating in music, they were more likely to express that same level of excitement. In addition, children are more likely to link up with other children who are interested in the same songs or types of music that they are (Soley & Spelke, 2016). With that, children who desire to participate in music lessons then acquire the skills that are associated with taking them, thus develop mentally, emotionally, and psychologically on a musical level as well as an academic level (Fomina et al., 2016). All in all, children who participate in music lessons consistently have higher concentration, better cognitive skills, more creativity, and higher IQ levels than children who do not involve themselves in music lessons (Hallam, 2010). This study surrounds all of this data in hopes of answering the following question: do children with a background in music lessons perform better in school?
Akuno, E. A. (2015). The Singing Teacher's Role in Educating Children's Abilities, Sensibilities and Sensitivities. British Journal of Music Education, 32(3), 299.
Cooper, J. (2016). Integrating Music, Drama, and Dance Helps Children Explore and Learn. Teaching Young Children, 9(4), 16.
Degé, F., Wehrum, S., Stark, R., & Schwarzer, G. (2014). Music lessons and academic self-concept in 12- to 14-year-old children. Musicae Scientiae, 18(2), 203-215.
Fomina, N. A., Maksimova, S. Y., & Propisnova, E. P. (2016). Child's intellectual development during music motor activities. Teoria Praktika Fiziceskoj Kul'tury, 101-105.
Hallam, S. (2010). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education, 28(3), 269-289.
Kooistra, L. (2016). Informal music education: The nature of a young child’s engagement in an individual piano lesson setting. Research Studies in Music Education, 38(1), 115.
Rife, N. A., Shnek, Z. M., Lauby, J. L., & Lapidus, L. B. (2001). Children's satisfaction with private music lessons. Journal of Research in Music Education, 49(1), 21-32.
Schellenberg, E. G. (2005). Music lessons enhance IQ. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 4(2), 10-13.
Smirnov, A. V., Anufriev, E. A., Davydova, A. A., Ganicheva, J. V., & Tsilinko, A. P. (2016). Teaching Music Taking into Account Pupils' Age Characteristics. Global Media Journal: American Edition, 1-7.
Soley, G., & Spelke, E. S. (2016). Shared cultural knowledge: Effects of music on young children’s social preferences. Cognition, 14(8), 106-116.