The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people Susan Hallam, Executive Summary Recent advances in the study of the brain have enhanced our understanding of the way that active engagement with music may influence other activities. The cerebral cortex selforganises as we engage with different musical activities, skills in these areas may then transfer to other activities if the processes involved are similar. Some skills transfer automatically without our conscious awareness, others require reflection on how they might be utilised in a new situation. Perceptual, language and literacy skills Speech and music have a number of shared processing systems. Musical experiences which enhance processing can therefore impact on the perception of language which in turn impacts on learning to read. Active engagement with music sharpens the brain’s early encoding of linguistic sound. Eight year old children with just 8 weeks of musical training showed improvement in perceptual cognition compared with controls. Speech makes extensive use of structural auditory patterns based on timbre differences between phonemes. Musical training develops skills which enhance perception of these patterns. This is critical in developing phonological awareness which in turn contributes to learning to read successfully. Speech processing requires similar processing to melodic contour. Eight year old children with musical training outperformed controls on tests of music and language. Learning to discriminate differences between tonal and rhythmic patterns and to associate these with visual symbols seems to transfer to improved phonemic awareness. Learning to play an instrument enhances the ability to remember words through enlargement of the left cranial temporal regions. Musically trained participants remembered 17% more verbal information that those without musical training. Children experiencing difficulties with reading comprehension have benefitted from training in rhythmical performance. Numeracy
Research exploring the relationships between mathematics and active musical engagement has had mixed results, in part, because not all mathematics’ tasks share underlying processes with those involved in music. Transfer is dependent on the extent of the match, for instance, children receiving instruction on rhythm instruments scored higher on part-whole maths problems than those receiving piano and singing instruction. Intellectual development Learning an instrument has an impact on intellectual development, particularly spatial reasoning. A review of 15 studies found a ‘strong and reliable’ relationship, the author likening the differences to one inch in height or about 84 points on standardised school tests. A study contrasting the impact of music lessons (standard keyboard, Kodaly voice) with drama or no lessons found that the music groups had reliably larger increases in IQ. Children in the control groups had average increases of 4.3 points while the music groups had increases of 7 points. On all but 2 of the 12 subtests the music group had larger increases than control groups. General attainment and creativity There is a consistent relationship between active engagement in music and general attainment but much research has been unable to partial out confounding factors. A recent study, adopting more sensitive statistical modelling overcame these difficulties. Two nationally representative data sources in the USA with data from over 45,000 children found that associations between music and achievement persisted even when prior attainment was taken into account. Music participation enhances measured creativity, particularly when the musical activity itself is creative, for instance, improvisation. Personal and social development General attainment may be influenced by the impact that music has on personal and social development. Playing an instrument can lead to a...
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