Music & Success in Society

Everywhere you look, there's music--in the car, in stores, at home, and hopefully at school. It's a vital part of our society, and every other society around the world. Even the earliest humans made music. It's clear that music and humanity are intertwined. Modern research has strengthened this connection. Sociological studies have shown that those who learn music, even simply as a hobby, demonstrate greater civic engagement and generally enjoy greater success in school and beyond.

The National Center on Education and the Economy found in their report on skills in the American workforce that "History, music, drawing, and painting, and economics will give our students an edge just as surely as math and science will." Students of the arts and humanities contribute as much to the American workforce as their more scientific counterparts. In fact, an education in the arts can develop skills that lead to greater career success. According to the National Governors Association, "The arts can provide effective learning opportunities to the general student population, yielding increased academic performance, reduced absenteeism, and better skill building. An even more compelling advantage is the striking success of arts-based educational programs among disadvantaged populations, especially at-risk and incarcerated youth. For at-risk youth, that segment of society most likely to suffer from limited lifetime productivity, the arts contribute to lower recidivism rates; increased self-esteem; the acquisition of job skills; and the development of much needed creative thinking, problem solving and communications skills."

Music also plays a role in developing that most vital of human skills--language. The Children's Music Workshop found that "Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language." Language skills are central to society. Understanding others and articulating your ideas is the cornerstone of working as a team and building relationships. Society is necessarily interconnected, and learning to communicate effectively is a measure of success.

As you can see, music develops skills applicable to every aspect of living. Music education creates confident, well-rounded, intelligent human beings. And those three qualities are fundamental to career building and social involvement.

So it's no surprise that music is important in all cultures, and has been historically. Besides being a great source of entertainment and communication, it fosters a sense of humanity and connectivity. In short, music and the arts in general strengthens the relationships between people and strengthens society. As the famed law professor Martha Nussbaum writes, "The abilities associated with the humanities and the arts are vital, both to the health of individual nations and to the creation of a decent world culture. These include the ability to think critically, to transcend local loyalties and to approach international problems as a 'citizen of the world.' And, perhaps most important, the ability to imagine sympathetically the predicament of another person. One of the best ways to cultivate sympathy is through instruction in literature, music, theatre, fine arts and dance...[We need] an education that cultivates human beings rather than producing useful machines."

Research backs up Nussbaum's ideas. It has shown that those involved in music and the arts demonstrate a greater sense of civic engagement and social responsibility. In this time of decreased social contact and waning community involvement, such qualities are desperately needed.

The Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse reported that high-school students who participated in music programs "reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs)." In researching the impact choral groups have on communities, Chorus America reports that "choral singers are far more likely to be involved in charity work, as volunteers and as donors (76 %), than the average person (44% according to a 2001 report by Independent Sector). Choral singers are also more than twice as likely as non-participants to be aware of current events and involved in the political process."

It should be clear now how large of an impact music has on our society. Schools and parents should be cognisant of this, and include music instruction in their children's lives. It's not only a determiner of success; it's also the ticket to fostering sympathy and responsibility. When an interest in music grows, society grows as well.

Sources: "Why Music Education? 2007," National Association for Music Education. Accessed 18 Jul 2013;
Tough Choices or Tough Times: The report of the new commission on the skills of the American workforce, 2007, page 29;
The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation, May 2002, The National Governors Association;
Laura Lewis Brown, "The Benefits of Music Education," PBS. Accessed 18 Jul 2013;
Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago; Newsweek International, August 21 – 18, 2006; "Teaching Humanity";
Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January 1998. America's Performing Art: A Study of Choruses, Choral Singers, and their Impact (Chorus Impact Study, 2003);