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Surprising Benefits of Learning Music

Music is an important part of our culture, celebrations and our educational experience. It brings joy and energy to so many lives.  What many people don’t realize is, as part of a well-rounded curriculum, music helps children excel in all areas of learning.

Research shows that children develop multiple skillsets while learning music, including language development, mathematics and visual-spacial intelligence. Over time, children who had a rich background in musical education have on average improved academic test scores and increased IQ.

“There are so many studies that show music opens up overall brain capacity,” says Andrea Bleess, Band Teacher at Cambridge Middle School. “In one of my first years of teaching a reading specialist told me that her students who were struggling to read seemed to have an easier time once they’d started music classes. They understood better the flow of anticipating what comes next, seeing the next word while reading the one they’re on.”

Aaron Knudsvig, the Director of Choir at Cambridge-Isanti High School, agrees. “There was a study that looked at students who were struggling and put the kids in a music class before the one in which they were struggling. There was a noticeable increase in their skills by having a music class first; it didn’t matter if the next class was English, or math, they improved.” Part of music curriculum is learning deep breathing and relaxation techniques, which allow students to calm their bodies while priming their minds for high-function thinking.

Neuroscience research supports the understanding that music shapes structural brain development. But beyond the tangible benefits are important social-emotional benefits. Crystal Kennedy, Band Teacher at Cambridge Middle School, believes that the social benefits of participating in a band or choral class are vital to growth. “Their social-emotional skills, too! We build strong relationships with these students as they grow up. We see them over many years. They form strong bonds with their music teachers and with one another. Studies have shown that students who form these types of social bonds are less likely to be involved with alcohol and illicit drugs. They have a place to belong, and they feel they have something to contribute.”

Kennedy goes on to say that participating in performances gives students an end-goal and a big sense of accomplishment afterward. Knudsvig agrees. “There’s nothing like the energy of a live performance,” he shares. It’s fun, it’s exciting. Bleess adds “Students crave this validation, that their hard work is not going unnoticed. The performances are a big payoff.”

Students may begin early with percussion instruments, learning to explore sounds, patterns and fine-motor skills. As they grow, students develop a sense of discipline and a growth-mindset. Practice leads to improvement, a skill that directly translates into other schoolwork. Music provides an avenue for creativity and building self-confidence; and fosters a sense of camaraderie that can last through their entire school career.


  • C-I Schools
  • Cambridge-Isanti High School
  • Middle Schools

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