Music is More Than Music

Music is the universal language. As such, its power and potential as an educational tool is unparalleled. Music is more than notes played and songs sung. Music is math. Music is reading. Music is language. Music is logic. The research and data clearly show that children involved in music programs score higher on standardized tests. It’s also clear that students involved with music programs are more academically engaged and less likely to face disciplinary measures.

But that is simply scratching the surface as it applies to music’s educational impact. While developing technical skills in math, reading, and language skills are critical, the development of various personal skills and characteristics reveals the true extent of music’s educational impact.

For example, music’s potential to teach creativity is unmatched. Every issue we face in today’s increasingly fast-paced and interconnected world is becoming more complex. To meet these increasingly complex issues and challenges, we must develop in our populace a corresponding increase in creativity and the ability to think out of the box and at a higher level. Music teaches and inspires creativity.

That said, these technical and creative skills must also be accompanied by the ability to collaborate with others to bring diverse people and ideas together in a cooperative effort to address those complex challenges. Once again, music’s potential to teach collaborative skills is profound. In fact, many CEOs view creativity and the ability to collaborate with others as the most important and desired characteristics of today’s workforce.

When you add these benefits and characteristics together, we are talking about leadership at the most fundamental level — effective leadership results from the combination of technical skills, creative instincts, and a collaborative mindset. Thus, given music’s tremendous, positive impact on these three characteristics and the synergies they produce, it is easy to see how music is unique in its ability to develop leadership skills.

In short, involvement in music programs creates leaders.

Some believe that nothing teaches teamwork and leadership skills better than team sports. While sports can be effective in this regard, music is equally effective in teaching and developing those skills. There is absolutely no difference between a five-person basketball team working together to achieve a common goal of winning games and a five-person band working together to achieve a common sound or style. Each requires communication skills, personal responsibility, discipline, listening skills, and sacrifice.

In short, music is more than music. When you add all of its positive impacts on students and account for the enormous synergies generated by those impacts, at its core, music is far less about developing the next YoYo Ma but rather about future community, business, corporate, religious, military, and educational leaders of the future.

Dr. Gerdy is also the author of “Lights on Lancaster: How One American City Harnesses the Power of the Arts to Transform its Communities.” He can be reached at

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