Research & Advocacy

banner_advocacy Decades of results from scientific research on arts education / music education have shown that children who participate in the arts and learn to play an instrument well significantly increase their chances of:

  • attending higher education (scholarships) and having a career
  • becoming valuable citizens who contribute to the community and support the arts (performers / audience members)
  • developing creativity skills that fuel the lives of entrepreneurs, scientists, architects, artists and problem-solvers
  • feeling connected while having an identity and voice, and
  • having self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence to take risks (improvisation in jazz music / composing).

Below are links to websites and articles that advocate for music and jazz music education as well as testimonials from experts. Most current articles will be at the top of the list. We welcome input from our readers. If you come across a story or link that you feel belongs on this page, please email

TESTIMONIAL: “The neuroscience is clear that interest and education in the performing arts, especially music, increases motivation, sustained attention and improves cognitive development. There are strong links between high levels of music training, especially in jazz, and the ability to manipulate information in both working and long-term memory. Music training correlates significantly with reading and sequence learning. Increased phonological awareness as a result of music education/training is one of the central predictors of early literacy. Similar correlations between dance and theatrical arts education and other cognitive skills exist as well. I could go on and on . . .”  David Blask, Ph.D., M.D., Professor, Medical Neuroscience at Tulane University School of Medicine, and Professional Jazz Musician, New Orleans, LA.

Community Music Programs Enhance Brain Function In At-Risk Children, ScienceDaily. Source: Northwestern University (2 Sept 2014)
Two years of music lessons improved the precision with which the children’s brains distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills. One year of training, however, was insufficient to spark changes in the nervous system.

“This research demonstrates that community music programs can literally ‘remodel’ children’s brains in a way that improves sound processing, which could lead to better learning and language skills,” said study lead author Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles professor of communication sciences in the School of Communication and of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. Read the entire article here.

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education That Translate to Success (July 24, 2014, NAfME News)
1) Confidence & Self-Esteem (stepping up to the mic), 2) Collaboration & Teamwork (I’m in the band), 3) Leadership (conducting your symphony of employees), 4) Salesmanship & Branding (give the fans what they want), 5) Creativity & Innovation (improvising from the charts), 6) Risk Acceptance (let’s just “jam”), 7) Discipline & Fundamentals (learning the “scales” of your profession), 8) Individuality (make your own kind of music), and 9) Passion (play it with “feeling”). By Craig Cortello, originally appearing in Business Musicians Blog, 6 April 2010. You can read the entire post here.

WEBSITE: National Association for Music Education

The National Association for Music Education Will Open a 2-Day Advocacy Event with a STEAM Congressional Briefing. Briefing Panel Will Discuss Why the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Movement Must Include the Arts for a True 21st Century Education (June 16, 2014)

“Through implementation of best practices in music and arts education delivery, STEAM education greatly enhances student learning. We know that music education orchestrates success and that America’s students will reap the benefits of profoundly meaningful music- and arts-enriched comprehensive learning experiences. We look forward to a lively and meaningful discussion among renowned experts,” Michael A. Butera, NAfME Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer states. Read the entire press release here.

WEBSITE: VH1 Save the Music Foundation – Benefits to the Brain 

Benefits of Music Education (PDF from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation website)

How musical training affects cognitive development: rhythm, reward and other modulating variables (20 January 2014, Frontiers in Neuroscience) … We conclude that musical training uniquely engenders near and far transfer effects, preparing a foundation for a range of skills, and thus fostering cognitive development. Read the entire article here.

Creativity and the Brain: What We Can Learn From Jazz Musicians (11 April 2014)

Luckily, creativity isn’t an unknowable, mystical quality. It can be developed. “You have to cultivate these behaviors by introducing them to children and recognizing that the more you do it, the better you are at doing it,” Limb said. The problem is a lot of kids don’t get much unstructured time either in school or out of it. School is often based on right or wrong answers, leaving little room for students to come up with ideas that haven’t been taught to them before.

“It doesn’t have to be so directed all the time,” Limb said. “We’ve taken a lot of the joy out of things that used to be joyful.” Even a lot of music lessons have become about the discipline of learning to play well, not the joy of creating the music. Children should have part of every lesson reserved for improvisation and free form play, Limb said. The same could be said for free play on the playground and experimentation with new ideas in the classroom. Unprogrammed time is necessary for students to practice using their creativity. Read the entire article here.

TEDxMidAtlantic Talk (November 2010) by Charles Limb, doctor, researcher, musician: Your Brain on Improv

New Evidence of Mental Benefits From Music Training (18 June 2014, Pacific Standard – The Science of Society, by Tom Jacobs)

The key result: “Children and adults with extensive musical training show enhanced performance on a number of executive-function constructs compared to non-musicians,” the researchers write, “especially for cognitive flexibility, working memory, and processing speed.”

The musically trained children showed “heightened activation in traditional executive-function regions” of the brain during a task-switching exercise, they report, along with “enhanced performance on measures of verbal fluency.” Read the entire article here.

How Brains See Music as Language (19 February 2014, The Atlantic, by Adrienne Lafrance)

“If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech,” Limb said. “So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.” Read the entire article here.

WEBSITE: Children’s Music Workshop / Advocacy Web Page

 WEBSITE: Broader Minded

The Science of Improv (Fall 2008 Peabody Magazine, by Nick Zagorski)

“During improv, the brain deactivates the area involved in self-censoring, while cranking up the region linked with self-expression,” (Charles) Limb explains. “Essentially, a musician shuts down his inhibitions and lets his inner voice shine through.”
Music’s seductive power, according to Limb, is that it embodies the same principles as life itself. “Life and music are both equal parts rational and emotional,” he says. “Fundamentally, music is purely mathematical. Guitar strings, drum heads, even the human voice box, they all generate sound at defined, periodic frequencies; but when you hear all those sounds intertwined in music, it is truly an emotional experience.”
The brain turned off areas linked to self-monitoring and inhibition and turned on those that let self-expression flow. In addition, the brain regions involved with all the senses lit up during improvisation, indicating a heightened state of awareness—the performers literally taste, smell, and feel the air around them. Most fascinating about this aspect of the scans was their uncanny similarity to patterns seen during deep REM sleep, creating a tantalizing notion of a connection between improvisation and dreaming. Read the entire article here.

Older Adults Benefit from Music Training Early in Life: Biological Evidence for Long-Term Training-Driven Plasticity (PDF) (Journal of Neuroscience, 6 November 2013)

We found that a moderate amount (4–14 years) of music training early in life is associated with faster neural timing in response to speech later in life, long after training stopped (40 years). We suggest that early music training sets the stage for subsequent interactions with sound. These experiences may interact over time to sustain sharpened neural processing in central auditory nuclei well into older age.

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