Why music is an education game-changer

Why music is an education game-changer

While literacy and numeracy are core competencies that every student should have, research has shown that learning music can help students’ self-confidence, self-discipline and team work. 

Music has also shown to help students progress in other important learning areas such as English, Science and Maths. 

Indeed, countries that place a strong focus on music education tend to have better outcomes in literacy and numeracy as speech and music have a number of shared processing systems. 

According to research by Susan Hallam from the Institute of Education at the University of London, musical experiences which enhance processing can 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 eight weeks of musical training showed improvement in perceptual cognition compared with controls,” Hallam said.

‘Students now want to work more than they have to’

Engaging music programs have also been shown to help with attendance and can be particularly beneficial for students who are not achieving well in school.

And this is a point not lost on music teachers Brad Fuller and Peter Orenstein, who are using a cross-platform strategy to boost student engagement and outcomes in both music and technology.

In 2012 Fuller was contracted to redesign the classroom music program at NBCS to “Create a magical, inspiring space that allows students to make music at the speed of thought”. Using a pedagogy first approach, the team designed the space, furniture, equipment, IT and courseware to foster engaged, 21st Century Musicians.

Since this time, Fuller and Orenstein have developed students’ enthusiasm for learning to an almost fanatical extent. 

“Nothing excites educators more than students who want to do more work than they have to,” Fuller and Orenstein told The Educator.

“When they ask if they can work longer on their assessment tasks or you literally have to herd them out the door because they don’t want to leave – that’s how you know you’re on to something.”

Fuller and Orenstein said that with advanced technologies breaking down communication barriers and giving students the freedom to collaborate in real time, the “I want to do more” student moments are becoming more commonplace. 

“We approach education with a dual focus on learning and opportunity. We are musicians and technologists,” they explained.

With a long history of everything music tech, Fuller and Orenstein were looking for a cross-platform that their BYOD classroom could collaborate in. 

“One of our many catchphrases, ‘Music with people for people,’ inspires us to push forward and collaborate with one another,” they said.

Breaking down socioeconomic barriers

Across Australia, a range of initiatives are under way to highlight the value of music education for students and teachers.

Perhaps the most far-reaching of these is the work being done by Musica Viva, Australia's oldest independent professional performing arts organisation.

The Musica Viva In Schools program reaches 1,300 schools nationwide, delivering high quality curriculum-aligned music education. 

The program features some of the country’s highest calibre musicians and enhances creative, community and learning outcomes for children, preparing them to be engaged, well-rounded thinkers.

Musica Viva’s director of business, education, Colette Vella, told The Educator that part of Musica Viva’s commitment is to provide access to the program to students all around Australia, no matter what their socio-economic background.

“Musica Viva In Schools are also committed to enabling teachers from all backgrounds to deliver music education in the primary classroom,” Vella said.

“To this end, Musica Viva In Schools deliver a suite of accredited face-to-face and online professional development opportunities.”

Apart from inspiring students’ love of music, the organisation is also helping raise awareness and education about Indigenous culture through its Dätiwuy Dreaming project. 

Since 2014, Musica Viva In Schools has showcased the music and stories of Dätiwuy Dreaming, the Yolngu people from Elcho Island in Northeast Arnhem Land. 

In response to the ongoing demand for greater access to indigenous performance in schools, a new group from Müa Island in the Torres Strait has been developed and will be joining the program in 2018. 

This new ensemble will be sharing their culture with Australian children through traditional singing, dancing and games, allowing the students a deeper understanding and knowledge of indigenous culture.