Music brings to each person their own unique experience and emotional response. For each of us enter life with music. From the sound of our mother singing lullabies to the final funeral march; music is a constant in our lives. Have you ever teaching reading fluency strategies wondered why music is playing in the grocery store, the dentist office, the doctors’ office, and elevators? Why do people feel the need to bring in music that does not relate to their business? Is it that music provides something to our state of mind? I believe that music has a direct influence on our actions. Music impacts who we are and who we will become.
Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself. ~Henry Ward Beecher
For over fifty years, the link between music education and brain development or intellectual growth has been researched. Several studies have shown astonishing results establishing that music does play an important role in who we become. Music helps “unlock” the learning potential in our brain which is needed to enhance our knowledge. Music aids in developing communication skills, strengthening memory, enhancing creativity, increasing self esteem and social skills, developing perceptual motor skills, increasing learning capabilities, healing the body, providing sensory integration, and motivating or increasing productivity. Music is a part of shaping each and every person’s life. Music does influence us.
The following research supports the theory that music not only can be calming, but also assists in regaining the ability to focus and attend to tasks. This new found attention is what brings us to a higher level of learning. Therefore it is important to include music in the daily activities of children and teens. Music can be a very beneficial tool in every classroom for behavior management, as well as keeping children on task, opening them up for further learning. This is our children’s key to success.
The Mozart Effect:
According to Don Campbell (1997), the power of Mozart’s music came to public attention in 1993 when Gordon Shaw and Dr. Frances Rauscher, and their team at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory in Irvine, founded “the Mozart Effect”. Rauscher and Shaw hypothesized that listening to a specific music would produce a short term enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning skills. They chose a particular Mozart sonata which had natural sequences of patterns and symmetries. These patterns actually match the internal structure of the brain. The study of thirty-six undergraduates from the psychology department proved an increase in spatial-temporal reasoning skills. These college students’ IQ increased by nine points after listening to music of Mozart. Although the effect lasted only ten to fifteen minutes, the relationship between music and spatial reasoning skills was evident. The theory developed that listening to Mozart, whose music has a mathematical complexity, will make you smarter. Dr. Shaw and his research partner, Dr. Frances Rauscher furthered their studies by proving that keyboard lessons given to pre-schoolers, over a period of six months, also increased their spatial-temporal reasoning skills by 34 per cent more than pre-schoolers who did not receive the music lessons. Furthermore, this effect would be long term. Dr. Gordon Shaw was quoted as saying, “Mozart’s music may warm up the brain. We suspect that complex music facilitates certain complex neuronal patterns involved in high brain activities like math and chess.” (Campbell, 1997, pg.15-17) Media termed the results of these studies as “the Mozart effect” and the public grew increasingly interested. Hence, further studies were promoted.
A follow-up study was conducted by projecting sixteen abstract figures, similar to folded pieces of paper, on an overhead screen for one minute each, for seventy nine students. The students were tested to see if they could tell how the items would look when they were unfolded. Over a five day period, one group listened to Mozart, another to silence and another group heard mixed sounds, including music, short stories and dance pieces. At the end of five days, the Mozart group scored sixty two per cent higher while the silence group increased by only fourteen per cent and the mixed group increased by eleven per cent. The scientists suggested that listening to Mozart helps to organize the firing patterns of neurons in the cerebral cortex in association with higher brain function. (Campbell, 1997, pg.15-17)
Again in March 1999, Neurological Research published Dr. Shaw’s study reporting that second graders who played the piano scored twenty seven per cent higher on proportional math and fraction tests. (Campbell, 1997, pg.180-181) The connection between playing an instrument and higher grades in math was confirmed once again.
Another study at Bolton Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was conducted to challenge the “Mozart effect”. This school was populated with students who averaged an IQ of ninety two among the second and fifth graders. These children had few advantages and not much extracurricular stimulation; as well seventy per cent were poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The principal hired a quintet for three years to play for the first, second and third graders for two to three half-hour sessions per week. As well, classical music was played over the school’s intercom system in the halls, library and lunch room. After just three weeks, the first grade teacher noticed a difference in her students’ ability to listen. After the three years, eighty five per cent of the students who had exposure to the classical music tested above grade level for reading and eighty nine per cent tested above average for math. This study further acclaimed the incredible impact that music has on children’s learning abilities and academic performances.