Music Gives Kids Critical Skills for Life

By Shannon Kelly
Father and Son Playing Music

Plato wrote that, “music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” In recent years, the link between music and student success has become a hot topic in education.

As a parent, you want to give your kids every possible opportunity to succeed in school and beyond, so you may already have your child in some form of music study in school or private lessons, but you may not understand how music can boost student success in school and life.

Education that includes the arts—including music—helps students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that other core subjects can’t foster alone.

Our organization believes in the power of advocacy, and envisions a world where all students have access to a rich experience with music education.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act is a huge step in that direction. With the new law, schools will increase the integration of music and the arts into academic curriculum, which will ensure that every child will receive a well-rounded education.

Music education offers a wonderful variety of benefits that are equally essential to students’ growth and development, including:

  • Discipline and “Grit”: When students are emotionally invested in music, they have a wonderful opportunity to learn about the value of “stick-with-it-ness.” Music is fun, but like any skill it takes work and focus to develop it fully. Through engagement with music, many students learn the value of focus and hard work.
  • Confidence and Self-Awareness: Eventually every music student has to get up in front of an audience and deliver a performance. Even if it’s only “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” this process is invaluable, because it offers a safe space for kids to venture out on a limb. And when they mess up, they learn to get back on the horse. (I’m personally still convinced that this benefit alone was worth all my piano lesson fees.)
  • Emotional Awareness and Collaboration Skills: Music is an extraordinarily expressive language in its own right. Engagement with music study offers students the chance to develop a greater awareness of emotional expression, and of their own emotional experience. Further, through the collaboration that occurs in music ensemble, students learn to work better with others, and to consider others’ thoughts and feelings.
  • Motivation and Engagement: Children are naturally creative. They have natural urges to explore and experiment as a way to understand themselves and their place in the world. Music offers the kind of tactile learning and experimentation that children need to develop their reasoning and critical thinking skills more fully. Further, engagement with music nurtures students’ natural creativity and allows them to “think outside the box” while solving problems.

In addition to the simple joy and satisfaction that music study can offer to all students, these other benefits cannot be discounted in the conversation about how best to prepare students for productive lives in the 21st century.

Music shapes the way students understand themselves and the world around them. It allows for deep engagement with learning. It nurtures assets and skills that are critical to future success.

These are the best reasons to study music, and they align much more closely with the underlying purpose of education, which is to give students the tools and opportunities they need to become the people they wish to be and to lead productive, well-rounded, happy lives.

If you are looking for more information or resources to get your child involved with music, visit us at You can also be an advocate for music education! Join the cause and read our resources, including updates on recent legislation, general advocacy information and advocacy tools via our Broader Minded advocacy site.

Shannon Kelly is the Director of Advocacy and Policy at the National Association for Music Education, as well as a private studio voice teacher and singer.

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