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March 4, 2008

Does studying music make you smart?

For years, educators and researchers have noted that students who are good at the arts also seem to be high-achieving students as well.  Look at the test scores from the Baltimore School for the Arts or the Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Baltimore County and you can see this trend clearly. Those schools admit students based on their promise in a particularly artistic field, but not necessarily on their grades. So how is it that they do so well academically too?

The question, according to a Dana Foundation report released this afternoon, is this: "Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?"

The report examines the correlation between arts education and brain development, comblining the research of cognitive neuroscientists from seven universities in this country. Each one worked on a different study about the arts and the brain. So it appears that children who study the music, dance or drama develop "attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that has apply to other subject areas," the report says.

There are several conclusions of interest, according to report:

1. Being involved in the performing arts gives students motivation to focus for a long period of time. That long attention span helps students in other areas.

2. Correlations exist between music training and reading acquisition.

3. There is a link between high levels of music training and the abilitly to minipulate information in both working and long term memory.

The research is preliminary and does not establish definate causal relationships, according to the researchers. More study is needed to do that.

For those who want to read the studies, they're available here.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:05 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Study, study!, Trends


In a world driven by competition (especially economic), many people believe that the path to success lies in math and science. While these subjects play a major role in society, they are certainly not the be all and end all of education. Both the fine arts and the liberal arts are widely neglected, and therefore deemed extracurricular or 'hobbies' by many. However, as this study shows, the arts definitely can be a bridge to success in other subject areas.

Sadly, NCLB and high-stakes testing have pushed the arts, PE, foreign languages, etc. out of the picture. Studies have proven the benefits of studying all these areas, but "we" seem to be ignoring this to the detriment of our students.

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