It has been proven that exposure to music raises a person's intelligence level. This is especially true for young children. The earlier you start a child in music, the more advanced their spatial reasoning skills (mathematics and engineering). Georgia's Governor Zell Miller realized the importance of music in a child's development and was providing cassettes or compact discs of classical music to every newborn baby in Georgia.
The January 14, 1998 edition of the Washington Post reported on Georgia Governor Zell Miller's proposal to "provide the parents of every Georgia newborn with a classical music recording in order to boost the infant's intelligence later in life." According to the article, Gov. Miller enlisted the expert knowledge of Atlanta Symphony conductor Yoel Levi to help select the pieces for the recordings, which would be distributed to the parents of the approximately 100,000 babies born each year in the southern state. The Governor hopes that the recordings would be "played often in [each] baby's presence." The $105,000 initiative is part of the state budget currently being debated in the Georgia legislature.
The article continues with the Governor's paraphrasing of recent research revealing the benefits of music training and listening, especially at an early age. The Governor is quoted saying "Research shows that reading to an infant, talking with an infant, and especially having that infant listen to soothing music helps develop those trillions of brain connections to develop, especially the ones related to math."
As part of the ARTSEDGE Virtual Conference "The Role of Technology in Elementary Music Education," Dr. Frances H. Rauscher, Assistant Professor of Child Development at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, wrote a paper entitled "Music Training and 'Spatial-Temporal Reasoning'" which focused on the very research which Gov. Miller quotes. In her paper, Dr. Rauscher reveals that "music training, provided to young children, causes long-term enhancement of spatial-temporal abilities."1 Dr. Rauscher's paper explains that "the neural networks that are used in processing music are apparently also used for reasoning in spatial domains."1
Reported in American Music Conference's Music-News: In November 1997, AMC received a request for information by Governor Miller of Georgia. [The Governor's office was] working on a plan and needed all of our background research about music and children. [The AMC office] forwarded everything we had including the "Mozart Studies" (research linking music listening to increased IQ in college students) and the children studies (research correlating music making which increases spatial-temporal abilities) .
On Thursday, January 16th, 1998, the New York Times reported that on educational grounds Georgia Governor Zell Miller proposed (as part of his state budget spending) $105,000 to make classical music available to every child born in the state. During his budget address Tuesday (1/14/98), he played a bit of "Ode to Joy," and then asked lawmakers, "Now, don't you feel smarter already?"
In the Feb. 6, 1998 edition of USA Today, reporter Glenn O'Neal reported about the ongoing debate about Georgia Governor Zell Miller's proposal to provide a CD or cassette of classical music to every child born in the state. Both Miller's proposal and the USA Today article quote from AMC materials about the research. While many are quick to embrace the idea and the article is filled with "experts" providing their personal hit parade of favorites to tune the infant brain the continued misrepresentation of research findings should not be encouraged by the music and arts community. We need to allow true scientific research to catch up with the claims now being made.
Physicist Dr. Gordon Shaw, a lead researcher on the now famous "Music Makes You Smarter" and "Mozart Effect" research, is quoted in USA Today stating he is "unaware of any scientific studies showing classical music enhances the reasoning ability of infants." Shaw continues "If you are going to do this (provide the CDs), do it seriously and find some way to evaluate the effects."
The danger of making claims about research findings that are not supported can undermine the very important and valuable findings that have been made and could damage the reputations of the researchers involved. Great strides have been made scientifically about what we know about music instruction and learning at an early age. If the music and arts communities are to benefit from research findings we need to focus on what we know and not on what we do not.
Peter Fenwick, Consultant Neurologist at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, suggests that the limbic system (the area of the brain related to emotion) is also a key area for music. Scans show that a part of the cortex "lights up", effectively becoming more perfused with blood when someone is listening to music. It is known that the right hemisphere of the brain is used in appreciating music and Endorphin levels and ACTH increase giving a sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
In the Intensive Care Unit, where harsh sounds of alarms and equipment pervade, the music has been shown to orchestrate a mood, especially after a busy period of activity. Staff and visitors automatically reduce their voices and equilibrium is restored. The babies benefit from an enriched atmosphere of music and sound and from periods of quality rest.
Parents comment on the very calming effects of the music for both their babies and themselves. The music becomes a talking point and a focus for relaxation, often giving some light relief to the parents from the more serious issues when an infant is ill. It has also helped those parents with stress related sleeping difficulties.
The research on the possible link is based on some remarkable studies that have recently begun pouring out of neuroscience laboratories throughout the country. These studies show that early experiences determine which brain cells (neurons) will connect with other brain cells, and which ones will die away. Because neural connections are responsible for all types of intelligence, a child's brain develops to its full potential only with exposure to the necessary enriching experiences in early childhood. What Drs. Rausher and Shaw have emphasized has been the causal relationship between early music training and the development of the neural circuitry that governs spatial intelligence. Their studies indicate that music training generates the neural connections used for abstract reasoning, including that necessary for understanding mathematical concepts.
Specifically, earlier studies led by Drs. Rausher and Shaw reported a causal relationship between music training and spatial-temporal ability enhancement in preschoolers (1994), and among college students who simply listened to a Mozart sonata (1993, 1995). References to these and other findings related to music research conducted worldwide are available at the Music and Science Information Computer Archive (MuSICA) at the University of California, Irvine.
In the February 19, 1996 Newsweek cover story by Sharon Begley, "Your Child's Brain: How Kids are Wired for Music, Math, and Emotions," pediatric neurobiologist Harry Chugani emphasizes the power of early experiences, saying, "they can completely change the way a person turns out." Begley points out, however, that implications of this new understanding of the brain are "at once promising and disturbing. They suggest that, with the right input at the right time, almost anything is possible." Early music training rewires the neural circuits and these circuits endure throughout life.
Early childhood music authority, Edwin E. Gordon, Ph.D., states in the winter 1995 issue of Early Childhood Connections (ECC) that this window lasts from birth through age 9. "From my observation and research with infants and young children, all indications are that a child will never have a higher level of music aptitude than at the moment of birth...A child's potential to achieve in music remains throughout life where it stabilizes at the age of 9." Simply said, early childhood is the time to begin music study. If music study is started at an early age, the natural aptitude present at birth will not deteriorate. Aptitude does not mean ability; aptitude is the potential for ability. So, the old saying, "Use it or lose It." applies to music!
Early childhood music education is finding validation from another quarter: science. In ECC's spring 1996 issue, Frances H. Rauscher, Ph.D., says, "It is ironic and perhaps unfortunate that we may be forced to resort to science to show the value of music to education." She and Dr. Gordan Shaw have made much headway in explaining the importance of music in the development of young children. They gave piano or singing lessons to preschoolers for eight months. After this period, the researchers found the children "dramatically improved in spatial reasoning . Compared with children given no music lessons. This was shown in their ability to work mazes, draw geometric figures, and copy patterns of two-color blocks. The mechanism behind "the Mozart effect" remains murky, but Shaw suspects that when children exercise cortical neurons by listening to classical music, they are also strengthening circuits used for mathematics. Music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking and enhances reasoning skills.
Science has shown us...society is warning us...music is not a frill. It's a necessity, for our mental as well as our emotional well being. 3
1) Miller, Zell, former Gov. of Ga. 1997
2) Rauscher, Frances H., Ph.D. Music Training and "Spatial-Temporal Reasoning". 1997.
3) Shaw, Gordon, Ph.D. Music Training, Music Makes You Smarter , and Mozart Effect . 1997.