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35,000 Years and Counting: Music Continues to Matter

Date: 22 May 2018

Creating and engaging with art has been a fundamental part of human existence for thousands of years. Archaeologists discovered musical instruments dating back more than 35,000 years, and music is linked to the origins of human language. Today, music surrounds us, from the background of our favorite television shows and movies to the $15 billion global recording industry.

With music playing a key role in our development and continuing to remain deeply rooted in our day-to-day life, it is particularly crucial to ensure children and teens have access to a well-rounded education that includes music as a core area of study.

“Music education has powerful and undeniable effects on student learning, achievement and lifelong success,” according to the Arts Education Partnership’s recently released Music Matters report — updated in partnership with the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation and the Country Music Association Foundation. A growing body of evidence continues to identify music’s positive impact on student success and support findings that music education equips students with foundational skills to learn — while also increasing their engagement and achievement across a variety of academic subjects and contributing to lifelong success.

With an interest in increasing student access to and participation in music education, states, districts, schools, educators and nonprofit organizations are working in a variety of ways to engage students in music. In Tallahassee, Fla., one music teacher uses a classroom music rug to help students work together as a team, engage them in active-learning activities and teach the rhythm and dynamics of music. Through participation in the Street of Dreams Musicians for Education program, teen mothers receive support in obtaining the credits they need to graduate high school and pursue a college degree. And a recent announcement from the NAMM Foundation shared the selection of 583 school districts and 135 schools across the country as 2018 Best Communities for Music Education for their efforts supporting music education as part of a well-rounded education.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides important opportunities, like those mentioned above, for engaging the arts in education, including:

  • As part of the definition of a well-rounded education.
  • As a means for achieving the goals of Title I, ensuring all students in all schools have access to a high-quality education.
  • As a lever to support effective educators.
  • As part of a comprehensive system of education that includes schools and community-based organizations providing learning opportunities to support student achievement.

As demonstrated across the country in state ESSA plans, policymakers have embraced the arts as a way to promote deeper learning, student engagement and academic success. For example, Connecticut and Illinois include access and participation rates in music education as part of their planned accountability systems under ESSA; and 36 states address music and arts as part of a Title IV-funded, well-rounded education. Early and sustained educational experiences in music deliver skills that can effectively predict long-term success in college, careers and citizenship. By investing in music instruction across the P-20 spectrum, education leaders, policymakers and practitioners can continue to provide students with the tools to support their learning and develop the foundational capacities for lifelong success.

Interested in using Music Matters in your music education work? Contact Cassandra Quillen at to purchase copies of the Music Matters brochure.

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