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More Music in the Classroom.... Why?

Making the Case for Music as an Educational Tool
Jerrilyn Stover, M.A.

Excerpted, with permission from
Digital Footsteps into the 21st Century Classroom:
     A Technology Guide for Elementary Educators

     Music researchers continue to find correlations between music and the development of the human brain. For example, according to the International Foundation for Music Research, music plays a crucial role in the development of school-aged children. Also, the Center for New Discoveries in Learning asserts that learning potential can be raised by at least five times the normal rate when using 60bpm (beats per minute) music.

     Similarly, Dr. Gordon Shaw, a professor at the University of California, originated the popular phrase “Mozart Effect” in Keeping Mozart in Mind, published in 1999. This book exemplifies experimental research that was collected over the course of more than twenty-five years which confirms that listening to classical music enhances the brain’s thinking, reasoning, and creating abilities.

     In an article “Music and the Brain, Music Power” (O’Donnell, 2008), it was noted that music affects our memory by activating the left and right sides of the brain simultaneously, resulting in an increase in the brain’s capacity to gain knowledge and retain information. O’Donnell maintains that if students listen to music such as “Mozart’s Sonata for Two in D Major” or “Handel’s Water Music” prior to and during test taking, then those students’ average scores will ultimately be higher than under testing conditions that do not provide a musical atmosphere. O’Donnell also relates that studies prove that neurons that trigger relaxation in the body are released during the listening of Mozart’s style of music.

     O’Donnell further notes that music aided Thomas Jefferson in writing the “Declaration of Independence”. Jefferson incorporated playing his violin during the formation of his notable text, which O’Donnell claims, contributed to Jefferson’s ability to conjure up the right words and enabled him to transfer words from his brain to paper.

     A key factor to music positively affecting the human mind is due in part to the mathematical order that is woven into the music’s structure. Music from baroque and classical periods includes specific patterns of rhythm, pitch, mood contrasts, and repetition. Repetition should be performed only once, because more than one repetition could result in the listener going into a state of sub-conscious thinking or quite possibly, a state of anger.

     Various researchers, modern and historical, suggest that music has a tremendous influence on the brain. Proof of this theory is found in high school students where those with a musical background have higher grade point averages than students with no musical background. Another impact of music is that listening skills are enhanced. “Hungary, Japan, and the Netherlands, the top three intellectual countries, all place high importance on music education and participation in music,” (Neverman, 1999).


Neverman. (December 20, 1999.) The affects of music on the mind. Retrieved from      http:/www.powell.k12.ky,us/pchs/publications/Affects_of_Music.html.

O’Donnell, L. (1999). Music and the brain, music power. Retrieved July 6, 2008 from      http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n15/mente/musica.html.


Copyright © 2009 by Jerrilyn Stover. All rights reserved.

 Instructional Technology

A Technology Guide
Elementary Educators