GHS Junior: Music Education Is Underrated

Letter to the editor from Elliot Greenbaum, Greenwich High School Class of 2021

Due to budget crises in Greenwich and across the country, funding for music education in public schools is at risk because it is not considered a priority. This is disheartening because music education is underrated and vital to students’ development.

On a personal level, there is nothing of greater value in my academic development than having had an early start to learning to read and play music. Thanks to my parents, I was immersed in music lessons when I was 4 years old learning to play classical guitar. By fourth grade, I picked up the saxophone at North Street School, continued at Central Middle School and am now with the Greenwich High School band program and the celebrated GHS Jazz Ensemble.

Playing instruments taught me many life skills, including how to focus, memorize, be disciplined, analytical, and motivated. It also helped me to process and anticipate tasks and information.

Many clinical studies have shown that learning to play an instrument changes how the brain develops by enhancing its ability to interpret and integrate sensory information. One major study from the University of Pittsburgh found a direct link between musical training and the development of the left side of the brain which accounts for logical, science and math-based thinking and, unsurprisingly, as the brain develops through adolescence, music education greatly increases cognitive abilities. For those who focus on test scores as a barometer for success, a 2007 study at the University of Kansas showed that elementary school students who had access to music programs scored 22% higher in English and 20% higher in Math on standardized tests compared to students in schools without music programs — regardless of socioeconomic differences among the schools.

The benefits of music education can not be overstated. Children learn social skills and proper etiquette in formal group settings, as well as leadership, discipline, and working as a team. With a goal to work towards and a song to master, learning music keeps students engaged.

Nevertheless, when schools face budget cuts, the first victim is almost always the music program because the arts are not tested subjects. This is unfortunate. There is tremendous value in music education, and I hope this issue garners more attention in Greenwich and beyond.