Why Violin?

An extensive study from the University of British Columbia in Canada indicates that high school students who take music lessons perform better in a variety of subjects. The researchers collected data from over 100,000 students who graduated between 2012 and 2015 from public high schools across the province of British Columbia. More than 15,000 of them were taking music lessons during high school.

Girl playing violin

Comparing the test scores of students who took music classes with those of their peers, the musicians got higher grades in science, math, and English. This type of research has been done before, but this study was much larger and considered other factors that may have affected the results.

Those factors included whether students who took music classes were encouraged to do so because they already had good grades, or whether they were inclined to study music depending on their socioeconomic backgrounds, which could also affect academic scores. The research team corrected for these factors in their analysis, and still found a clear effect of music lessons on academic performance.

Not only did music students perform better than non-musicians, but students who played an instrument did even better than those who sang. This could be related to the level of involvement with music. “Learning to play a musical instrument and playing in an ensemble is very demanding," said researcher Martin Guhn, "A student has to learn to read music notation, develop eye-hand-mind coordination, develop keen listening skills, develop team skills for playing in an ensemble and develop discipline to practice.”

What this study doesn’t tell us is why playing an instrument makes students perform better, but the research paper mentions possible explanations: several studies link music practice with neurological changes that improve certain brain functions, which may explain why studying music affects memory or planning skills; additionally, researchers believe there may be a motivational factor in that students who take music lessons see a tangible result from practice (they get better) and may apply that motivation to their other schoolwork; finally, the non-competitive team aspect of making music together may strengthen students’ social development, which would also help them in other areas.

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