Expert Research


1996 Rhode Island Study

Bad news for philistines everywhere.  Just as governments on both sides of the Atlantic are advocating core educational curricula that emphasize reading, writing and arithmetic, two studies - one carried out in America and the other in Switzerland and Austria - suggest that training in music and the visual arts is no mere frippery, but may help the assimilation of more "serious" subjects.

The American study, the work of Martin Gardiner, of the Music School in Providence, Rhode Island, and a group of his colleagues, looked at 5- to 7-year-olds in the state.  Four classes, in two schools, were enrolled in a special program me that emphasized the systematic development of musical and artistic skills.  They did this in addition to the standard curriculum.  Two other, less fortunate, classes - acting as controls - merely suffered from normal lessons.

After seven months, all 96 pupils involved in the experiment were tested.  At this point Dr Gardiner discovered that his experimental group had, according to their kindergarten records, been under-achievers, rather than being the random sample a statistician might have preferred.  Nevertheless, the tests showed that they had caught up with their less artistic peers in reading, and were outperforming them in mathematics - an out performance that lasted until the study ended the following year.

The Alpine experiment, in a sense, picked up from there.  Its subjects were older children - from seven to 15 - and there were more of them {around 1,200).  But it came to similar conclusions.  Maria Spychiger, then at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and ]ean-Luc Patry, from Salzburg University in Austria, again had twice as many subjects as they did controls.  Seventy classes of children had the number of music lessons they took increased from one or two to five a week - an increase that was made at the expense of teaching mathematics and languages.  Thirty-five classes continued on the old syllabus.

After three years, and despite the reduction in the amount of teaching they had received in the subject, the "musicians" were as good as the controls at math, and better at languages.  They were also more co-operative with each other.  Music truly has charms to soothe a savage beast.

Source: The Economist 1 June 1996

Scientists Say Singing Boosts Immune System

Singing strengthens the immune system, according to research by scientists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, published in the latest edition of the US Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

The scientists tested the blood of people who sang in a professional choir in the city, before and after a 60 minute rehearsal of Mozart's Requiem.  They found that concentrations of immunoglobin A - proteins in the immune system which function as antibodies - and hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone, increased significantly during the rehearsal.  A week later, when they asked members of the choir to listen to a recording of the Requiem without singing, they found the composition of their blood did not change significantly.

The researchers, who included Hans Guenther Bastian from the Institute of Musical Education at Frankfurt University, concluded singing not only strengthened the immune system but also notably improved the performer's mood.

Source: Monday 19 January 2004

First Evidence That Musical Training Affects Brain Development In Young Children

Dr Fujioka, Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute: "Previous work has shown assignment to musical training is associated with improvements in IQ in school-aged children. Our work explores how musical training affects the way in which the brain develops. It is clear that music is good for children's cognitive development and that music should be part of the pre-school and primary school curriculum."

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2006) — Researchers have found the first evidence that young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year compared to children who do not receive musical training.
The findings, published today (20 September 2006) in the online edition of the journal Brain [1], show that not only do the brains of musically-trained children respond to music in a different way to those of the untrained children, but also that the training improves their memory as well. After one year the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ.
The Canadian-based researchers reached these conclusions after measuring changes in brain responses to sounds in children aged between four and six. Over the period of a year they took four measurements in two groups of children -- those taking Suzuki music lessons and those taking no musical training outside school -- and found developmental changes over periods as short as four months. While previous studies have shown that older children given music lessons had greater improvements in IQ scores than children given drama lessons, this is the first study to identify these effects in brain-based measurements in young children.
Dr Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University and Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, said: "This is the first study to show that brain responses in young, musically trained and untrained children change differently over the course of a year. These changes are likely to be related to the cognitive benefit that is seen with musical training." Prof Trainor led the study with Dr Takako Fujioka, a scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute.
The research team designed their study to investigate (1) how auditory responses in children matured over the period of a year, (2) whether responses to meaningful sounds, such as musical tones, matured differently than responses to noises, and (3) how musical training affected normal brain development in young children.
At the beginning of the study, six of the children (five boys, one girl) had just started to attend a Suzuki music school; the other six children (four boys, two girls) had no music lessons outside school.
The researchers chose children being trained by the Suzuki method for several reasons: it ensured the children were all trained in the same way, were not selected for training according to their initial musical talent and had similar support from their families. In addition, because there was no early training in reading music, the Suzuki method provided the researchers with a good model of how training in auditory, sensory and motor activities induces changes in the cortex of the brain. Brain activity was measured by magnetoencephalography (MEG) while the children listened to two types of sounds: a violin tone and a white noise burst. MEG is a non-invasive brain scanning technology that measures the magnetic fields outside the head that are associated with the electrical fields generated when groups of neurons (nerve cells) fire in synchrony. When a sound is heard, the brain processes the information from the ears in a series of stages. MEG provides millisecond-by-millisecond information that tracks these stages of processing; the stages show up as positive or negative deflections (or peaks), called components, in the MEG waveform. Earlier peaks tend to reflect sensory processing and later peaks, perceptual or cognitive processing.
The researchers recorded the measurements four times during the year, and during the first and fourth session the children also completed a music test (in which they were asked to discriminate between same and different harmonies, rhythms and melodies) and a digit span memory test (in which they had to listen to a series of numbers, remember them and repeat them back to the experimenter).
Analysis of the MEG responses showed that across all children, larger responses were seen to the violin tones than to the white noise, indicating that more cortical resources were put to processing meaningful sounds. In addition, the time that it took for the brain to respond to the sounds (the latency of certain MEG components) decreased over the year. This means that as children matured, the electrical conduction between neurons in their brains worked faster.
Of most interest, the Suzuki children showed a greater change over the year in response to violin tones in an MEG component (N250m) related to attention and sound discrimination than did the children not taking music lessons.
Analysis of the music tasks showed greater improvement over the year in melody, harmony and rhythm processing in the children studying music compared to those not studying music. General memory capacity also improved more in the children studying music than in those not studying music.
Prof Trainor said: "That the children studying music for a year improved in musical listening skills more than children not studying music is perhaps not very surprising. On the other hand, it is very interesting that the children taking music lessons improved more over the year on general memory skills that are correlated with non-musical abilities such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ than did the children not taking lessons. The finding of very rapid maturation of the N250m component to violin sounds in children taking music lessons fits with their large improvement on the memory test. It suggests that musical training is having an effect on how the brain gets wired for general cognitive functioning related to memory and attention."
Dr Fujioka added: "Previous work has shown assignment to musical training is associated with improvements in IQ in school-aged children. Our work explores how musical training affects the way in which the brain develops. It is clear that music is good for children's cognitive development and that music should be part of the pre-school and primary school curriculum."
The next phase of the study will look at the benefits of musical training in older adults.

Adapted from materials provided by Oxford University Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Music lessons improve kids' brain development, memory: study

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 | 10:43 AM ET

The Canadian Press

Music lessons can help children as young as four show advanced brain development and improve their memory, even when it sounds like a budding musician is banging out little more than noise, a new Canadian study suggests.
Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton used magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain-scanning technology to compare the developmental changes in 12 children aged four to six over the course of a year.
The study, to be published in the October edition of Oxford University's neurology journal Brain, found that those who took music lessons showed more changes in brain responses.
Even when parents hear only what sounds like random notes or nonsense, it's likely their children are developing their brains in ways that could enhance their overall thinking, said professor Laurel Trainor, who led the study with Takako Fujioka, a scientist at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.
"There are probably really fundamental things going on in the brain as those kids are learning over that first year, so even though they appear on the surface to maybe only play a few pieces, very simple pieces, it's probably setting up networks in their brain," Trainor said. 
Music training could lead to improvements in literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ, she added.
The study found particular changes in the attentional systems of children who took music lessons, which affected their ability to pay attention to important things around them.
"A child with a superior attentional system will be able to apply that in different domains, so they'll be able to focus in on what's important in a verbal learning task, they'll be able to concentrate when figuring out a mathematical problem," Trainor said.
"So you can imagine how a superior attentional system would have wide-ranging consequences across many domains."
Trainor said the study represents the first time researchers have identified the benefits of music lessons for preschool children.
Value of music education
Previous studies compared the impact of music classes and drama classes in older children and found kids who learned an instrument had better improvements in IQ scores.
"I think our study and other studies show that music has benefits … for cognitive processing and cognitive development," she said.
"We would hope that when decisions have to be made, music would be considered a core part of the preschool and school curriculum."
Many studies have shown the value of music education and many parents want it for their children, said Ingrid Whyte, executive director of the Coalition for Music Education in Canada.
"There's this tremendous emphasis on math and English and science, and those are wonderful and important things, but here's a study proving, yet again, that music education does help develop the brain," Whyte said.
"There's also a whole range of other skills that are being developed in terms of social skills and creativity, and a sense of belonging and community and collaboration with one another."
© The Canadian Press, 2006


 The Effect of Music-Enriched Instruction on the
Mathematics Scores of Pre-School Children
Maureen Harris
Children’s House Montessori
13145 Riverside Drive East
Tecumseh,Ontario, Canada, N8N 2M7
Email: [email protected]
While a growing body of research reveals the beneficial effects of music on education performance the
value of music in educating the young child is not being recognized, particularly in the area of Montessori
education. This study was an experimental design using a two-group post-test comparison. A sample of
200 Montessori students aged 3 to 5-years-old were selected and randomly placed in one of two groups.
The experimental treatment was an “in-house” music-enriched Montessori program and children
participated in 3 half-hour sessions weekly, for 6 months. This program was designed from appropriate
early childhood educational pedagogies and was sequenced in order to teach concepts of pitch, dynamics,
duration, timbre, and form. The instrument used to measure mathematical achievement was the Test of
Early Mathematics Ability-3 to determine if the independent variable, music instruction had any effect on
students’ mathematics test scores, the dependent variable. The results showed that subjects who received
music-enriched Montessori instruction had significantly higher mathematics scores. When compared by
age group, 3 year-old students had higher scores than either the 4 or 5 year-old children.

The value of music in educating the young child is not being recognized, particularly in the area
of mathematics. Despite the amount of literature available regarding the effect of music
instruction on academic achievement, little has been written on different Montessori music
pedagogies and the effect on students’ math scores. If research of students in the school system
indicates that learning through the arts can benefit the ‘whole’ child [21]; that math achievement
scores are significantly higher for those students studying music [17]; and if Montessori
education produces a more academically accomplished child [3]; then what is the potential for the
child when Montessori includes an enriched music curriculum?

Education Today and Tomorrow
At the outset of the 21st Century many educators and parents are considering the kind of
education young people need to become responsible and productive members of a global society.
Major changes globally are making it increasingly more difficult to prepare the student to be the
responsible citizen of the future with the life skills to live and work in a global world.
Recognizing that schooling should enhance the development of creative and responsible citizens,
we need to consider how such development takes place, and provide rich opportunities for
learning for all students

Music and Brain Development
The role music plays in the education of the child is the focus of much discussion in education
today. The baby at play is sculpting a brain that will be used for the rest of his or her life [16].
Research results would seem to indicate that the learning and remembering of a melody can occur
not only before birth but actually before or at the beginning of the third trimester [6] The first 3
years in a child’s life is a time when music can be used to stimulate the development of nerve
connections between brain cells necessary for optimal cognitive development [12]

Music and Math
Researchers have found time and again an apparent link between the arts (music most commonly)
having a positive impact on – reading, math, writing, self-esteem, and brain development.
Rauscher & Shaw (1997), while studying higher brain function, found a connection to the brain
linking music lessons to improved spatial-temporal reasoning abilities of four to six year olds.
While music is viewed as a separate intelligence, there is a high correlation between mathematics
and music and it is more than a coincidence that math and music are noted for their crossover
talents. Music involves ratios, regularity, and patterns, all of which parallel mathematical
concepts [14]. For example, the musical scale is similar to a neat logarithmic progression of
frequencies. There are also similar connections between patterns of notes and patterns of numbers
[4]. Students who developed the rhythms for the songs, began to think in multiples of four. They
realized that if they had sixteen beats of music, they then had four sets of four beats. Students also
grasped the concept of odd and even as the groups were subdivided into smaller units for
particular steps or musical rounds [4].

Music enables students to learn multiplication tables and math formulas more easily; rhythm
students learn the concept of fractions more easily; students who were taught using rhythm
notation scored 100% higher on fractions tests, and a child may use the ability for logical thinking
that was developed in the music class to solve problems quite unrelated to music [13]. The core
question being: “is the ability to learn ‘anything’ enhanced when music, rhythm and movement
are added and the child is engaged”
Engagement and Learning through the Arts
Engagement means that children are wholly involved, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and
socially. Work in the arts requires that children learn how to pay attention to relationships and so
many of the decisions that are made in life are decisions that cannot be made by appealing to
formula, recipes, or algorithms. The arts promote that kind of perception and engender that sort of
thinking. The tools the workforce of tomorrow will need are creative thinking, problem solving,
risk-taking, teamwork and communication, and are precisely the skills the arts teach [15]. If we
do not encourage students to master these skills through quality arts instruction today, how can
we ever expect them to succeed in their highly competitive business careers tomorrow?

Life without Music
A study of five hundred thousand students in forty-five countries has shown that the United States
is below average in mathematics [8]. A study titled “Musical training improves a child’s ability in
spatial-temporal reasoning, which is important in mathematics and science education” suggests
music education be present in schools, preferably starting in preschool, to develop “hardware” for
spatial temporal reasoning in the child’s brain. The absolute crucial role of spatial temporal
reasoning in learning difficult math and science concepts must be explored and exploited. Dr.
Jean Houston of the Foundation for Mind Research says that children without access to an arts
program are actually damaging their brain. They are not being engaged to non-verbal modalities
that help them to learn skills like reading, writing, and math [18].

Montessori Music Research
The decision to support music cannot be made without knowing music’s effect on academic
achievement and its contribution to a student’s education. The goal is to meet and exceed the
challenge of giving young children the best possible preparation for the future [5]. Assuming that
young children’s involvement in music programs provides a conceptual foundation for subjects
such as mathematics, a study examining the difference in math achievement scores between
Montessori students who received traditional Montessori instruction and students who received
music-enriched Montessori instruction predicts positive results [9]. A sample of 250 Casa
students (ages 3-5) within the jurisdiction of a Montessori School board located in Southwestern
Ontario was selected for the study. The researcher, an experienced Montessori teacher and music
specialist, used the Test of Early Mathematics Ability 3 (TEMA-3) assessment for this study
[7.a]. This instrument measures mathematical achievement 1) concepts of relative magnitude, 2)
counting skills, 3) calculation skills, 4) knowledge of conventions and 5) number facts (reviewed
by American Educational research Association, American Psychological Association, and
National Council on Measurement in Education 1999). All schools were established Montessori
programs that met recognized affiliation standards. The children in the study, aged 3-5 years,
were divided into two groups, experimental and control. The experimental treatment was a 6-
month ‘in-house’ music-enriched Montessori program designed from appropriate early childhood
educational perspectives and based on Kodaly techniques. The program was sequenced to teach
concepts of pitch, dynamics, duration, timbre and form as well as skills in moving, playing,
listening, singing and organizing sound. Children participated in 3 half-hour sessions weekly. The
comparison group received traditional Montessori instruction during this period. Children in both
groups were post-tested on the TEMA – 3.

Significance of the Study
Based on these findings it appears that students who received music-enriched Montessori
instruction had higher levels of mathematics achievement than students who received traditional
Montessori instruction. When compared by age group, 3-year old students had higher scores than
either the 4-year old, or 5-year old children. Suggested follow-up research - a longitudinal 3-year
study following the progress of the 3-year-old students and testing them again at 4 years and 5
years to see what is the consistent positive effect of enriched music instruction on these students’
math ability scores. Further significant findings indicated that the Montessori students performed
in the high percentile range for mathematics based on the expected norms of the TEMA-3 testing
tool [7]. Of the Montessori students in the experimental group (those receiving music-enriched
Montessori instruction) 100% fell in the 90th -99th percentile range. These scores far exceed the
expected norms of the TEMA-3.
These findings are significant because a grasp of proportional mathematics and fractions is a
prerequisite to mathematics at higher levels, and children who do not master these areas of
mathematics cannot understand more advanced mathematics critical to high-tech fields [22]. This
study offers quantitative results that could help Montessori and early childhood educators
recognize the value of music-enriched instruction for the young child, and implementing the
instructional designs used in this study could lead to higher levels of student achievement [10].
As the quantity, quality, and availability of empirical studies increases, Montessori and Early
Childhood educators will have the knowledge to make a stronger connection between their design
decisions and the evidence of ‘what works’. This is the time to explore how research and practice
reflects the wider world of early childhood education.
The quality of early childhood education can have long-term effects on a child’s attitude toward
further education and educational achievement [1]. Evidence indicated that once children’s
achievement patterns were established, there was a high degree of continuity from that point
forward, and early attainment set boundaries on later attainment[2] The goal is to meet and
exceed the challenge of giving young children the best possible preparation for the future and to
do this a basic part of their learning experiences must be involvement with the arts [19].
As we embrace the 21st century and face the challenges of the future with and opportunity and
responsibility to change, research suggests that providing a quality arts education today will
ensure optimal opportunity for our children to succeed in the highly competitive world of


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