Why learning music should be compulsory


Sarah Strubbe

Andrick conducts the Riverside Brookfield Chamber Orchestra during class.

Joy Greco, Media editor

According to a survey by the Gallup Organization, “Only 54 percent of U.S. households have a member who plays a musical instrument.”

A statistic like this is discouraging, especially as I myself am a music student. Music has always been my passion, and I have lived out the effects of being immersed in instrumental and vocal music throughout my entire life.

The many benefits of studying music at a young age are impressive, which is why I believe it should be required that all children take a musical instrument.

Music stimulates both the creative and cognitive sides of the brain. Seamlessly linking the left and right sides of the brain, music helps children to become better at using both of these areas simultaneously, which is essential for any field of study or future occupation. So, the more you learn an instrument, the faster and better your brain functions in these stimulated areas, which translates to many areas of development- most significantly, academics.

The complex elements of music training (muscle memory, hand-eye coordination, reviewing note names, rhythm, and dynamics, understanding the meaning or historical significance behind a piece of music, etc.) promotes complex thinking. Students know how to look at things from multiple perspectives, and are equipped to deal with difficult concepts because of the exposure to an interpretive and diverse art form

This heightened level of thinking results in better school performance. Music students’ test scores are significantly higher than a student not involved in music, and academic skill overall is exponentially advanced. Here at RB, the average ACT data for 2019 shows that for all students, the average is a  21.7. For students in band, choir, orchestra, and jazz, the average was a 25.98, and for honors music students, the average was a 27.6.

Bands, Choir, Orchestra, Jazz 25.98 1236.7
Honors Music Only 27.6 1283.8
All Music 24 1162
School 21.7 1074

Music is also an outlet for expression and encourages creativity, which is crucial during a child’s development. Learning the basics of any instrument is an entirely new form of gaining information. It’s almost like learning an entirely new language. They are also exposed to various forms of music: music written in distinct time periods, music with contrasting melodic patterns and rhythms, music for multiple instruments, etc.(Data courtesy of James Baum- RBHS Band Director)

The intellectual rigor of music along with it being such a diverse and abstract art-form encourages open-mindedness, which transfers into their future studies academically, helping them to freely and openly learn about themselves and the world around them.

But despite the many significant benefits, many parents still might be hesitant to “force” their kids into something they find boring or uninteresting. However, self-discipline and accountability are key life skills that should be promoted and even “forced” at times, rather than not taught at all. Giving kids the obligation to learn and practice every day teaches the lesson that, sometimes in life, we have to do things we don’t want to. Practicing for set time periods every day stresses persistence and patience. Practicing music is one of the most effective ways to teach time management and the importance of “sticking things out.”

Also, although music training is tough, the sense of achievement from this difficulty is why it is so beneficial. In music, unlike other disciplines, you work towards refinement rather than perfection. Two plus two is four; there is no room for improvement or potential for emotional gratification there. But when studying music, children learn they can always improve and make something better and better so that an audience can be moved by their art, and appreciate it as extensively as they have practiced and worked to perfect it. Knowing there can always be refinement translates to other aspects of life moving forward, such as being able to come up with more innovating ideas, and gaining a more progressive work ethic.

In a world becoming increasingly dominated by technology, mental health concerns are on the rise. Children spend hours and hours glued to their phones rather than spending time with others. In an ensemble setting, they learn how to connect with others and work as a team. Every member agrees on one common cause: to perform their selections the best that they can. They all must rely on one another to reach that goal.

Yes, we need to let kids be kids. But we also must make sure they are exposed to as many opportunities as possible that could lead to increased self-assurance and overall success in the future. All children should be given an equal opportunity to become successful academically, and more creative, open-minded, and teamwork-oriented. Especially now, exposing them to the connectivity, passion, and beauty that is music, enriches them individually, allowing them to be inspirations to others, and brightens the future of our world. The amazing benefits of learning music will last a lifetime.