Researchers Find Link Between Music and Academic Performance in Nashville

Independent study shows higher performance on all levels for musicians in class of 2012

Bringing decades of anecdotal evidence and national research home to Music City, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Mayor Karl Dean are proud to reveal the direct connection between music education and student achievement and engagement. The results of an independent research study on the benefits of music education in Nashville clearly show that Metro students engaged in music programs outperform their peers on every indicator – grade point average, graduation rate, ACT scores, attendance and discipline.

“This benchmark study confirms what every music teacher knows,” said Laurie Schell, director of Music Makes Us. “Music engages students in school and can motivate them toward greater achievement. Our job now is to take this knowledge and let it guide us in expanding a high-quality music program that reaches all students.”

“Music and other co-curricular activities are going to play a key role in our journey to becoming to highest performing urban school district in the country,” said Director of Schools Jesse B. Register. “We will offer every student in Metro Schools the opportunity to learn a music instrument or otherwise participate in music programs. This new research reinforces our resolve. Music will help students grow, achieve and be empowered in education.”

Commissioned by Music Makes Us, a joint effort between Metro Schools, Mayor Karl Dean and the Nashville music industry, researchers from the University of Kansas looked at four year’s worth of student data, as well as student surveys and focus groups, to determine what influence music can have on students.

Key findings:

Key findings of academic impact of music participation in Nashville schools.

Read the Full Report

In addition to the above findings, students who participated in music programs reported more positive attitudes and behaviors in their personal lives and in school. They had a strong sense of identity, developed positive academic habits, applied musical skills to other academic courses, saw themselves as more motivated in school and reported positive effects on their mood – essentially feeling “happier” because of music.

“When we started Music Makes Us, we knew we would not just be giving students a creative outlet; we also knew music education could have a positive impact on academic performance and attitudes about school,” said Mayor Karl Dean. “This study validates the importance of music education and our investment in this one-of-a-kind program as we continue to focus on providing every child in Metro Schools with a high quality education.”

This baseline research is a positive early step, but it is not the end result. The report clearly shows that the more music classes a student takes, the better his chances of achieving. That means Music Makes Us must continue to grow and develop until it touches every student in every school. That can only happen with community support, which helped give birth to Music Makes Us in the first place.

“It’s thanks to the partnership between the district, Mayor Dean and Nashville’s music industry leaders that we are even in this position,” said Dr. Register.

Mayor Dean added, “Without the strong community partners backing this effort, including incredible support from the Country Music Association, we wouldn’t be here. Nashville owes them a debt of gratitude.”

The next step is examining and implementing the recommendations made in the report, which include expansion, student retention and continuity of existing programs.

“Our teachers are ready to step up and engage with the broader music community,” said Schell. “We are excited to build our capacity to have an impact on student learning through music. The benefits for the students and the city will be far-reaching.”