Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap Between Poor And Affluent Students


Closing the achievement gap between low-income and affluent students could be as simple as do-re-mi.

In a study out Tuesday from Northwestern University, researchers looked at the impact of music education on at-risk children’s nervous systems and found that music lessons could help them develop language and reading skills. The study is the first to document the influence of after-school music education on the brains of disadvantaged children, as opposed to affluent children receiving private lessons.

Researchers from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern spent two summers with children in Los Angeles who were receiving music lessons through Harmony Project, a non-profit organization providing free music education to low-income students. In order to document how music education changed children’s brains, students were hooked up to a neural probe that allowed researchers to see how children “distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills,” according to a press release.

Students from the study, ages six to nine, were divided into two groups. The first group consisted of children who received two years of music education by the end of the study, while the second group of children had only received one year of lessons. This led researchers to discover that children’s brains only started to respond to the music education after two years of lessons. One year was not enough to have a definitive impact.

“We used a quick but powerful neural probe that allowed us to gauge speech processing with unprecedented precision. With it, we found that the brain changes only followed two years of music training,” Dr. Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said in a press release. “These findings are a testament that it’s a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if it’s an ongoing part of children’s education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.”

Leaders at Harmony Project approached the researchers after the non-profit observed that their students were performing much better than other public school students in the area. Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project’s free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent, according to a Northwestern press release.

“Now we know this success is rooted, at least in part, in the unique brain changes imparted by making music,” Dr. Margaret Martin, founder of Harmony Project, said in the press release.

Kraus told The Huffington Post that the study could be a case for expanding music education in school.

“It would appear that music is an effective strategy for helping to close the achievement gap,” Kraus said. “What seems to be happening is that this experience of making music is helping to create a more efficient brain, a brain that is going to be able to help a person learn and communicate, especially through sound.”

The Harmony Project and the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory have teamed up before to study how music education impacts students’ grades. Researchers previously showed that after one year, second-grade students participating in Harmony Project maintained or improved their grades. This compares to peers from the same schools whose grades’ dipped after not participating in music lessons.

“Existing research indicates that kids from poor homes are not learning to read in the first four years of school –- while kids from middle-class and affluent homes are,” Martin previously told The Atlantic. “Given the importance of reading in achieving an education, this finding is stunning.”

Link to article


[leaves this here and backs away]


[leaves this here and backs away]



Hey guys!! 

this is a fun dorky question…

What’s everyone’s favorite mode? 

I like this question, so I’m passing it along…

Lydian!  Locrian is a close second.  

A video to display the flute family in a fun and educational way! Enjoy! :)

Music Educators turned 3 today!

Music Educators turned 3 today!

Create music

Ask the student to play a scale of C major ( or any familiar scale).

Now ask them to create their own scale of between 5 and 8 notes.  Get them to write the scale down.

Ask them to play the scale up and down. ( It could vary on the way down -  like the melodic minor)

Now ask them to compose a tune using the notes of their scale (in any order).

This lesson addresses the areas of:

1) Scale playing

2) Note naming

3) Theory

4) Improvisation

5) Composition

Accompaniment app on Kickstarter

Thought you and your followers would be interested in our accompaniment app! It’s called Cadenza and it lets you play concertos, sonatas and chamber music with real ensemble recordings following your tempo. We’re currently available on Mac, and we’re now on Kickstarter to put the app on iPhone/iPad and expand our library.

Look us up on Kickstarter - “Cadenza, an orchestra in an app” based in Boston. Direct link here!

Thanks so much for helping us spread the word!

If you want to know why I haven’t been on tumblr in a long time:

I’ve been fighting fires.  (Well, really just taking rides to automatic alarms then going home.  But you get my point.)

Just started a new blog.



Thus is education…



Thus is education…

Choir people:

Ola Gjeilo just joined tumblr.  If you are unfamiliar with his work, you should fix that.

Just listen to his O Magnum Mysterium

Or his Sunrise Mass

His work is challenging and still accessible for high school aged choirs.  I definitely recommend checking his work out.  It’s absolutely beautiful.


Would anyone be interested in tickets to see Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall on December 13th?


I am selling tickets and they’re not at a bank-breaking price. It’s going to be a great show with amazing soloists. Tickets are running out quickly, so let me know asap.


Would anyone be interested in tickets to see Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall on December 13th?

I am selling tickets and they’re not at a bank-breaking price. It’s going to be a great show with amazing soloists. Tickets are running out quickly, so let me know asap.

Clark Terry on Improvisation

I thought this article was an interesting read. The concepts are basic, but they are solid and invaluable to students at any level.


Excellent.  I have serious respect for the person who put this whole thing together.  Very cool.  Watch it.

Amazing video.  Maybe some ideas for teaching 12-tone and making it relatable to whatever age group you wish.