A new study in the midwest sets out to measure what Nancy Flanagan and other champions of music and arts education have always claimed: students will learn better–derive measurable cognitive benefit–from music education.
An observant high school instructor can tell within two weeks of the start of school which of his students have been or are musicians, and which have not been so fortunate. There is an ability to hold focus, an attention to form, and a self-disciplined sense of esprit de corps and one-for-all that the musical student manifests, in my 20 plus year experience.
At the Mankato, Minnesota public schools, Larry Scripp of the music education department of the New England Conservatory (pictured) is overseeing empirical trials of the claims made for music instruction in the public school.
As the article points out, music education engages kids in spatial reasoning and problem-solving, as well as sophisticated left-to-right decoding (language acquisition) skills.
An amateur musician, I wish to point out that musical education fits neatly into the whole blended education idea I’ve pushed lately for American schools. No: music class is not the mixture of on-line and in-class sessions that “blended learning” usually connotes. But note how the successful music student works independently and collaboratively in order to maximally learn. Like a blended learner, the musical student works within a group, but also at his own particular level, whether first oboe or third, and the learning situates itself there, where the learner is–in that excellent zone of proximal learning.
And also, like the best learners, the music student achieves collaboratively: whether his conductor, his composer or his fellow musicians are there or not, the musician practices a social art–he strives to learn how to better communicate with a community of others who, likewise, are collaboratively construct meaning to share with others.
To summarize, my ideal schooling is a blended school, and contains plenty of musical and arts education.