Music’s prominent place in early education is based on the value of music to children’s growth and learning. The values of music are many and varied. Shellenberg (2003) relates music education to a wide range of cognitive skills. Children who had participated in music education for one year had increases in general intelligence. Schellenberg (2003) thought this increase was related to periods of focused attention, memorization, and the concentration involved in listening to, and making, music.

Research and theory document the following:

  • Music has intrinsic and instrumental value in and of itself. Music is critical to human development and to creative thought.
  • Music can also be used to present ideas and build concepts, teach or persuade, entertain, design, plan, beautify, and create (Consortium of National Arts Education Associations [CNAEA], 1994).
  • Music plays a valued role in creating cultures and building civilizations. Music awakens children to folk arts and their influence on their own lives and the lives of others (CNAEA, 1994).
  • Music is a social activity. Listening to music and singing or dancing together unites children. Individuals come to feel a part of the community when singing together.
  • Music is another way of knowing, another symbolic mode of thought and expression. From the enactive and iconic mode of knowing and learning about the world through action, perception, and imagery, music grows to become a symbolic mode of learning.
  • Music gives children unique opportunities to create and be fluent in their thinking. They can respond in unique ways to listening or moving to music and create new songs and rhymes.
  • Music gives children the opportunity to express their feelings and ideas freely as they dance in the light of a sunbeam, pound a drum, or sing a song of joy.
  • Music is mathematical. The rhythmic quality of music fosters children’s ability to keep time and count sequences.
  • Music is physical. Children sway, clap, dance, or stomp to music, gaining control over their bodies. Even singing is a physical activity that requires the ability to control muscles, vocal cords, and breathing.
  • Music benefits children with special needs. Because music is a pleasurable, nonthreatening experience, it can be used to help a child with special needs feel more comfortable within the group (Humpal, 2003).
  • Music develops the skills necessary for learning to read and write (Andress, 1995). The Music and Reading Readiness Skills box on this page describes how and why music is necessary for the development of reading readiness skills.