No one can deny that the academic and developmental benefits of a music education are well documented. A quick Internet search will come up with many examples of improvements in a student’s standardised test scores or language acquisition rates as a result of his or her involvement with music education. However, there is a second kind of benefit to music in the classroom that cannot be ignored because the truth is, the therapeutic value of music in the classroom may truly be where its greatest impact lies.
Firstly, music in the classroom provides an outlet for creative expression.
Music promotes almost immediate student interaction, in fact Teach Major SEN teacher Amanda notes that, “Music can grab children’s attention in an instant” – and it’s true. Students of any age are quick to respond to music in their own creative way because the rhythmic and melodic components of songs encourage playfulness, creativity, and spontaneity in their listeners. Even children who generally find it more difficult to express themselves can find the experience rewarding and enjoyable as music helps them uncover and process certain emotions. Students like these typically find it easier to use instruments or songs to communicate their unique feelings no matter what their own musical proficiency level and over time, students who experience a music education become more confident and adept in expressing their emotions outside the classroom.
Secondly, music can provide relief from stress and anxiety.
Just listening to music can help boost a person’s mood, but performing music in a classroom group musical interaction encourages students to incorporate the senses of sight, touch, and sound to work through feelings or emotional situations. SEN teacher Amanda says she’s witnessed this firsthand: “I have noticed shy or quiet children becoming more confident and outgoing [while] children that may find focusing or concentrating difficult, [can] change their whole perspective on a certain subject.” School can be a stressful place for a child, and developmentally, school-age children are constantly contending with new stimuli which can often be overwhelming. Music classes provide a respite and outlet for some of these stressors, as well as an opportunity to develop coping skills.
Thirdly, music in the classroom provides time for socialisation and fun!
Music is an expression of emotion and oftentimes this kind of creative space allows for a more informal interaction between students. Seemingly little things like sitting in group formations or writing silly songs with their peers invites students to approach new ways of communicating with each other. This is essential in the pursuit of successful socialisation and the development of healthy interpersonal skills, two areas that are highly tied to feelings of happiness in students. Music classes also expose students to new sounds and rhythms, and students have fun listening to and performing these songs while unknowingly familiarising themselves with their own healthy internal emotional responses. Students pass these positive feelings on when they interact with other students: SEN teacher Amanda says, “Music gets children working and connecting with their peer groups, which creates more child-to-child interaction – even outside of music classes. Music education within schools can enable children to achieve goals and milestones they feel proud of and allows children to show off, too!” This kind of positive experience is invaluable among academic schedules; the fun children have during music education class positively influences their entire school day, making them more likely to feel favourably about their other academic subjects.
While there’s plenty of evidence stressing how important a music education can be for a child’s academic future, the goal of any educator is to create students who become happy and capable adults. The therapeutic benefits of an in-school music education come at perhaps the most formative time during any students’ life and therefore provides each child with the tools to live a more well-rounded, fulfilling adulthood.