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Why study music? (academic/intellectual benefits)

Thanks for all your information about the benefits of choral
music. I had to divide the compilation into two parts because it was so
long. Here is the first half:

contact Chorus America...they have a national study on this
Try or go through the links with
Linda Tedford
I taught for two years before going back to grad school and
had to convince
administrators of the importance of scheduling for choir,
funding and
accompanist for performances, allowing money to order music,
etc. It was a
constant challenge. The biggest help in my case was when
the community and
the parents saw the kids perform and do well at concerts
(which they hadn't
seen much of before) and got excited about it, then they
talked to
and superintendents telling them how much they enjoyed the
choir concert,
(Also, performing for the rotary club and events where
administrators and
board members are present). What sways the administrators
the most is
that the community wants something, since they of course
have to answer to
parents and community. So see what you can do in rallying
up community

Again, good luck.

Aaron Mitchell
Brigham Young University, BM
UCI - University of California at Irvine has published
research into the
benefits of at musical education on spacial intelligence.
children who learn a musical instrument have a 30% greater
intelligence quotient. I know there are other benefits due
the mathematical
nature of music but you will probably need to check into
their website or do
a google search to see if you can find something. There
also may be good
info on the Choralist website. You should always check there.

Chorus America just released the results of a recent study
which they had
done on choral musicians across the country. The results
are quite
compelling - choral singers volunteer more, give more money
to charity, are
more politically active, and are generally more involved in
civic life than
the general public. That data alone ought to give you lots
of ammunition
about the benefits of choral singing to society at large not
to mention the
personal benefits to the individual students.

Good luck! Sadly it is always a constant fight to educate
people about the
great benefits to a musical education.

Lauren Flahive
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley
a non-profit children's choir
(626) 918-3994


It isn't really research, but it is a document quoting part
of several
universities' admissions statements regarding the importance
of the arts in
education. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Cornell,
etc. It states
quite clearly that these universities value the arts in the
cognitive development of prospective students. I could fax
it to you if you

Scott Wickham
Centaurus HS
Lafayette, CO
Check MENC's website and the Arts Education Partnership website:

Joy Hirokawa
Bel Canto Children's Chorus
I have collected some info which I have found interesting
from New York
sources. Send me you address and I will forward soonest.

Stephen A. Stomps
Auburn High School Choirs
250 Lake Avenue Extension
Auburn New York 13021
PH: 315-255-8341
FAX: 315-255-5876
HOME: 315-255-1783
email: steve_stomps(a)

Somewhere I have a various articles about the joys/benefits
of choral
singing. I think Robert Shaw might have written something
-- he's the
mentor of all time for choral singing. One of our previous
conductors did
too. If you like I can search for them. I just don't have
them at work.
In my email box, however, I have a good article that someone
sent to me, and
I'll forward it to you separately.

It's been shown that singing does wonderful things to your
brain, heart, and
lungs. It's a great emotional soother as well -- probably
related to
endorphin release in the brain, similar to the "runner's
high". I always
feel better after a good hard sing, no matter what is vexing
me in life.
Choral music has gotten me through some very tough times in
life. Singing
opera, in particular, has helped me "loosen up" as a person
-- I am better
able to emote, I'm less tied up in knots, less "uptight".
Singing offers
instant fellowship, the joy of doing something well. It
teaches discipline,
etiquette (performance), and math. Now, a high school
student should be
used to, and comfortable with, fractions (which translates
instantly to
whole note, quarter note, etc.) but singing can reinforce this.

One of the really neat things about choral singing is that
the individual
singer doesn't have to have a terrific voice -- blend and
group dynamic is
more important. And no matter what kind of voice you have,
there are things
you can do to become a better singer -- more focused, more
precise, a better

The kid who is not very good at sports (where individual
skill shows up
glaringly) often finds music to be a safe haven. A singer
can get quietly
and comfortably lost in the group and develop confidence and
gradually. (Personally, I'd rather have a student who is
quiet, shy, unsure
than one who is brash, over-confident, loud. The quiet kid
is a better
"sponge", more receptive to learning, even though some loud
kids are
covering up insecurity. You have to break through that
loudness and that is

Then there are the cross-link benefits of music. When you
sing Haydn's Lord
Nelson Mass, you can learn about the sound of drums and the
the chorus
singing "Benedictus ..." (boom boom boom boom boom boom)
cannons. Singing Vaughan William's Dona Nobis Pacem, with
the text of Walt
Whitman, brings home the pain of war (remember the lines
about the double
grave for the father and son, or the moon rising like some
mother's large
transparent face?). You learn history like it's never been
taught in class.
Right now I'm in a performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas,
and we are
using "Restoration English", a term that meant nothing to me
except as an
accent I had to learn. Then our choreographer spent some
time lecturing
about the "Interregnum" period (the Commonwealth) in
England. Restoration
English refers to the time when the throne was "restored."
CLICK. Singing
in cathedrals/churches everywhere makes you at least think
about the times
during which these edifices were built. I learned about
columbine, kings cups, myrtle, and a host of other
wildflowers when I sang
one of Vaughan Williams' songs from "Gloriana" -- a suite
written for the
coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. More history. I learned
how to yodel in
an Austrian workshop. (I also learned WHY yodeling was used
-- instant
geography lesson!) In singing Rossini's opera William Tell,
I learned that
this fellow was a real person -- a Swiss patriot. Most
people know the
William Tell Overture, but the opera is pretty amazing too.
(And there is a
TON of good choral music in it!!!)

But my favorite "cross-link" story about choral music takes
place in the
days immediately after 9/11. I was on one of the first
overseas planes after
Boston's Logan Airport re-opened. The choral festival I went
to in Salzburg
miraculously had not been cancelled. (This is one of the
venues of an
American-based group, the Berkshire Choral Festival,
Please check it out.) After a week of rehearsals, making
friends, working on
our fractured German (and getting ulcers reading the
newspapers, because we
missed at least 20% of the idiomatic German!), we sang in
Cathedral, which was packed. (This is typical on a Sunday
morning, since
Salzburg is a huge tourist destination.) The bishop offered
words of comfort
to the "American guest singers." When Mass ended, the
congregation pressed
forward to greet the chorus. At that moment, there were no
cultural, or religious gaps or clashes. The notes we had
sung, and the tears
flowing down our faces, bridged any barriers that anyone
would attempt to

If your board has any further questions about the benefit of
choral singing,
send them to me. I'll set them straight! Please let us
know how things
turn out.

I just thought of something else. Choral singing is a form
of oral history.
We learn folk songs, patriotic songs, ballads. We sing
lullabys to our
children. Even though some of them have their dark sides,
e.g. "ring a
round of rosies ..." apparently refers to plague or
smallpox, and some
nursery rhymes are a bit violent, e.g. "Be off, or I'll kick
downstairs!" -- they are still part of our oral heritage.
Every kid knows
"Darling Clementine" or "Oh, Susannah" etc. but do they
understand the
context in which they were written? This is the stuff that
makes history
bearable, even interesting.

In case you hadn't guessed, I loathed history as a kid. I
was OK memorizing
dates but nothing seemed to fit into a larger picture that I
could grasp.
Then I learned to focus on smaller, more detailed pictures,
and eventually
the larger mosaic emerged. Think of the analogy between
this and the
structure of music: single notes vs. lines vs. movements
vs. a "period" in
musical style. When you start to see the bigger connection
you are more
receptive to working with the building blocks. As an adult,
history became
much more real and interesting through the musical connection.


Ginny Siggia Tel:
(617) 258-8131
Administrative Assistant Fax:
(617) 258-8073

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Email:
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 1-240
Cambridge, MA 02139
Kristi Bowers
Athens, AL

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Here is Part 2 of my compilation:


This is the article I told you about. You can probably
distill a few choice
sentences for your purposes.


Got this from a singer friend. It's a trifle long but
worth reading.
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian
Observer site, go to

On song, out of tune
We don't like performing in public unless we can make money
at it
Nigella Lawson
Saturday December 09 2000

>The Guardian

>I cannot, absolutely cannot, sing. I dare say most
neurotics believe that
>there is one thing that eludes them that would make a
difference to their
confidence and their life. For me, it's singing. Many
people say they
can't sing, but really mean that they can't sing well. I
mean that I have
to mime to 'Happy Birthday'. And I mind. I would like to be
able to sing,
not just because I feel ashamed of my inability, but because
I think
singing is one of the few ordinary activities that can
confer confidence,
and even happiness.

John Rutter, the choral composer, observed last week that
the British were
'no longer a singing people. You only have to go to a
wedding to see
people looking embarrassed at the hymns', he said. Rutter is
touching upon a curiously significant malaise when he
pinpoints the
fall-off in ordinary local choirs and indeed any form of
communal singing.
Whether you can sing or not may hardly matter in the great
scheme of
things, but it does seem to say something about us as a society.

I am not about to get sentimental and start getting
nostalgic about the
nights we didn't watch telly but gathered around the old
Joanna to have a
good sing-song. But I do believe we are missing out on
something. Singing
with people, as a choir or in a group, can be a uniting
experience. There
can even be something cathartic about unselfconsciously
unleashing the
human voice.

Today, though we are obsessed with expertise and
professionalism. It's not
enough for someone to enjoy singing, they have to excel at
it. So any
singing ambitions a person may have today are less likely
to be about
forming part of a group, but about standing out, being
special, having the
spotlight on them - in short, being a star. People would
even rather do a
karaoke turn in the pub and fantasise about being a
professional than a
mere member of a group.

But choral singing is different for other reasons, too. It
can absorb
the individual as a visit to the cinema can, while watching
can't. A choir, like a good film, can engulf you. You can
lose yourself in
it. The individual human voice is somehow eclipsed and
becomes greater
than the sum of all the individual voices. Even a
toad-voiced person such
as myself can remember that special feeling of singing in a
choir at
school and of being lost in the collective voice. And that
is where the
catharsis lies. Sometimes losing yourself is when you can
feel most

Singing requires both confidence and unselfconsciousness and
neither are
things that we do well in this age. We are knowing and we
are anxious. And
for all that we are supposed to live shallow and hedonistic
lives, the
truth is we constantly opt for recognition over pleasure. We
concentrate on the process: we are constantly striving only
for the
result. That is not only a loss; it is also
counter-productive. Any human
activity that is worthwhile derives its meaning as much from
the process
as the end purpose.

When Carrie Fisher wrote, in Postcards from The Edge, of
'being punished
by rewards', she may have been describing singular
experiences connected
with her far from ordinary life, but she was voicing a
universal idea,
that the goal of certain activities is not the most
important part.

The notion of community has been politically overplayed in
recent years.
None the less, some activities do create a sense of cohesion
and belonging
that otherwise eludes us. I wouldn't claim that joining a
choir would

>solve the problems of a fragmented society or offer solace
to alienated
individuals but it is sad to speculate on the response
you would get if
you suggested it as a therapy in some places. 'What would be
the point?
Where's the gain?' the cynics would ask.

If an activity doesn't earn you money, or make you rich,
then there is no
value attached to it. True, we admire singers with good
voices, but what
matters even more is the number of records they've sold and
how much money
they've made. And that's what we want to emulate: their
stardom rather
than their talent. This has become what validates our existence.

Doing something professionally is a mark of status. Turning
a personal
quality into a financial asset is the natural consequence.
In just the
same way, when a good-looking girl wants to be a model it is
not so much a
mark of confidence as a way of seeing what about herself she
can sell as a

Perhaps it is an inevitable consequence of the way we've
our lives. The idea that someone might have a hobby now
seems downright
quaint. If they've got any sense, they'd be setting up a
business, doing
whatever it is that gives them pleasure to make themselves
rich, we think.
Why waste time enjoying yourself?

Such an attitude makes a testing business out of life. You
can't always be
pitting yourself against the world. And perhaps the
particular comfort in
singing, is that it is about being human, essentially human;
song predates
even speech. Where that leaves a vocal deficient like me, I
wouldn't like
to say, but a girl can dream.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
Unfortunately, most everything I have is unverified, but
I'll send it
along anyway.

1. 90% of company presidents had musical training as a
child. 90% of
people on death row did not.

2. The Mozart Effect. Listening to classical music for a
short period
of time has been found to increase a student's IQ by several
There are a few things on the web about this, but not a
whole lot.

3. Singing in a choir (or playing in a band) greatly helps
a student to
focus his/her mind on multiple tasks at once:
singing/playing the right
notes at the right time, performing in conjunction with the
rest of the
group, following the director while reading music,
singing/playing in
tune, enjoying the sounds being made both by himself and the
group. This
stretches the mind like no other activity or exercize, nor
provides as
much enjoyment and satisfaction in the process. Kids who
participate in
musical groups tend to have a higher GPA than kids who do
not. (Ask the
school board to check that out with the grade records they

Please post your other responses. Thanks!
I am sure that the MENC web site has a whole list of
benefits for the
students. You might check that out before you go to the

Good Luck!!


PS I have pasted the web address to check.

Hi Kristi,

I'm sure people will help you with some appropriate research
citations, but
here is one they might miss. Phi Delta Kappan, a journal
well known in ed.
circles, in April 2002, 83(8), has an article by Elliot
Eisner (Stanford
University) that discusses what schools should be. He warns
that our
schools are losing their souls to this pervasive bottom-line
test mentality
that is stripping away our students' abilities to comprehend
or develop
problems on their own, or to ask important questions. We
spend all our
time telling them what is important, what to think, how to
think it, etc.
They are being developed by folks who want us to all be the
same. Creative
thinking is not valued in the test taking world.

The only hope schools have is a rigorous, meaningful arts
curriculum that
allows students to think in original, expressive ways.

Good luck,



Hi...Best of luck to you in your quest. We who taught in TX
know the
struggle and we empathize with you. Please check out this

Texas Music Educators Association

and click on: Advocacy in the list of links on the left
hand side.

Good luck!!!

Lynda Lacy-Boltz
Raleigh NC
Thanks again for all your help!
Kristi Bowers
Athens, AL

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I want to thank everyone who responded to my question about studies that
show a link between singing and test scores. Many respondents requested a
compilation and that will follow.

To clarify, I work in a district where the Board and Superintendent have a
positive vision for all the arts. We have occupied a new music building
for nearly a year. A new renovation of our theater will be completed in
the next month. The facilities for the visual arts have recently been
enlarged. The Superintendent I spoke of in my post is at a neighboring
district that feeds includes only elementary school and middle school.
They feed our high school district. His lack of vision for choir in his
district has significantly negative implications on my program. I work
with a wonderful band director who, in an earlier life was the music
supervisor in a fairly large urban school district. He is squarely in my
corner and we "sing off the same page," so to speak.

My original post and edited responses follow.

Original post:
I had a conversation with a school Superintendent, thankfully not my own,
who is in favor of keeping band, but is cutting choir. He says all the
studies that show a relationship between music and higher test scores, etc.
relate only to instrumental study and not vocal. I believe he's missing
the point of the studies, but I'm also trying to find some studies that
show a specific relationship between choral music and test scores, brain
development, etc. My search has proven to be difficult. Can anyone lead
me to some studies that link choir with improved academic performance.

Yes, I know that is not the only benefit and I do not wish to minimize the
other benefits. But, I need to, in part, speak the same language as this
superintendent. Also, please do not send me to sites where there are a lot
of studies about music and the brain. I know about those sites and I'm
working through them, so far with little luck.

I'm pleased this district is keeping its band program but I'm distressed
that choir is being cut and I want to present studies that will help change
the thinking. I'm sure there must be some out there.


Have you tried using to find research
information. Below is one article that I found in a quick search of
"singing test scores" I haven't looked anymore.

Look at the music research for Early Childhood. It's almost all vocal
based or general music instruction. Have you tried searching the JRME
index on the MENC website by typing in choral or vocal music in the title?
It brought up many research articles when I did it.

Chorus America should have some helpful information.

I have a report from Chorus America that has many
statistical factors that will help in your cause. The report can be
purchased for a nominal fee through their website. The title is "America's
Performing Art: A Study of Choruses, Choral Singers, and Their Impact"
This information, while not soully geared toward education will help in
your cause along with their "Choral Survey Report".

What an unfortunate situation. Might I suggest you enlist allies from your
English, history and humanities department and make a case for the fact
that choral music is also the study of literature, culture, and often
history? These students are most likely singing great texts by great
authors from all different countries time periods and cultures- how about
coming at it from that viewpoint?

How about the language of EQUITY. Long experience has shown that poorer
families participate less in instrumental music than choral music (I teach
both). But choral music often assumes no outside lessons, no instrument
rentals, and lower expenses all around.

I also feel we need to be willing to challenge pseudo-science like the
superintendent's assertion that only instrumental study foster academic
achievement. What are his references?

Singing and instrumental music distinguish us from the animals. They are
distinctly human activities which are valuable for their own sake. They are
the patrimony of the ages which we humbly pass on to our children.

You might find this helpful:

I cannot "off the top of my head" come up with a scientific study but I
will tell you that I took care of my mother for 12 years as she slowly
disappeared via Alzheimers disease. She remembered the words to the hymns &
folk songs that she had grown up singing for most of that journey. During
her last few days she did not make eye contact or respond in any way to our
presence there with her. However, my husband brought his guitar & sang &
played for her during her last evening. To our amazement....she was moving
her big toe to the beat of the songs.

I ran across an article, but I don't recall if it dealt totally with
instrumental or if it dealt with all facets of music and brain activity.

It is worth a look! In the November 2004 issue of Scientific American, page 88, "Music and the Brain". The headline on the cover
reads, "The Brainy Secrets of Music'sPower-The Photonic Connection".

It seems to me that as long as you are teaching sight-singing with rigor,
then the choral program is working all of the same aspects of the brain as
the instrumental program. I know that some of the research refers to
developments in spacial relations with regard to instrumental music;
however, every time you read a piece on 'da' or some other neutral
syllable, you are engaging in the same kinds of abstract cognition as
instrumentalists. I would imagine that
the majority of tests have been carried out with instrumentalists in order
to avoid adding another variable into the equation text. As you and I
know, it is text and its inter-relationship with music that makes vocal
music "special". Ultimately, our goal as arts educators is not to raise
test scores, but to encourage our students to become more human.

One of my music education colleagues recommends the book “Champions of
Change.” Here is what he says:

I think you might find some of the 'research' that this person would like
in "Champions of Change" (I don't have a copy, but it deals with the
analysis of the 1998 NELS federal research study)

He also points out the flaws in the “band improves tests scores” thinking.
We both know that this isn’t what you want, and it may not open this
benighted person’s eyes, but it’s worth observing that the research that
equates success with band is not holy writ:

Part of the problem is that most of the research dealing with instrumental
students doing better is a function of socio-economic status.

Those with the MONEY to have their kids in band or orchestra programs (and
going to schools that can afford a band program) are the ones doing better.

They're the ones typically with two parents, with a decent diet, don't need
to work to help feed the family, more time for studying, more time for
school in general, yadda, yadda, yadda. So the problem is, in my opinion,
that the results of some of this research is that it hasn't been
communicated clearly - another example of the "Mozart Effect" .Have
you checked out the International Foundation for Music Research at You may be able to find some helpful information
on their site.

Having the support of your local band director would help.

I feel like you that much of the research is linked to instrumental
playing, and it is hard to find stuff that isn't. What I have found and
compiled myself is on the following website

For a quick list of the most compelling non-musical reasons for singing
check out What Singing Does on that site.

In fact I don't think you will find research that will back up a corelation
between GPA or SATs and singing. The truth is that even the stuff that
links instrument playing is weak at best - usually not showing a cause and
effect relationship, which is critical. It is just that it makes sense
that kids who fiddle with their fingers a lot (the only positive difference
between band and choir students) will be better somehow, because we can see
what they are doing. What goes on in the voice is invisible and therefore
hard for administrators to believe in.

I argue that kids today get so much manual dexterity training (xbox,
computer games and keyboards) that playing an instrument doesn't make much
difference. It must be the mental aspects of creating music that make the
difference: reading the music and making aesthetic and production choices
and the discipline of working in a group and practising. All of this is
taught in a good choir program, except that because the only means of note
production is the voice (no instrumental crutches), the brain needs to work
harder to be in tune, to deal with tone, to deal with text, etc.

Plus, the confidence building factor. Oh my! A kid that can sing to his
peers confidently is a great future employee, I reckon.

Having said all that, and advised you to fight this battle away from GPAs
and SATs, I'd be very grateful for a compilation of whatever you do get.
I'm always looking for more to argue the case for Choir.

Tony Mowrer