Six Benefits of Music Lessons

Teacher standing next to a student at a piano

Boosting standardized test scores is just the beginning of music lesson’s benefits for your child.

To musicians, music students, and lovers of the arts, the necessity of music lessons and arts education is almost assumed. We see the power that music holds and the benefits it provides to students, not just creatively, but academically and as a human. However, if you were not involved in piano lessons since you were five, or participated in music theory classes, or even listened to Bach and Mozart in the house, the importance of music lessons for children might not be immediately apparent.

You might have heard of the importance of starting your child in music lessons, but wonder why. What is the true importance of it? How does it benefit my child? If my child isn’t going to be a professional musician, why are music lessons and arts classes important?

The Community School of Performing Arts has answers to these questions. We have over 70 years of first-hand experience of the life-changing power of music education. Private instruction and music lessons are important because they provide an outlet for creativity and expression, boost academic performance, teach valuable life skills, and are a source of joy and community!

1. Music Lessons Increase Students’ Test Scores

While the primary goal of piano or violin lessons might not be to improve your son or daughter’s SAT score, they actually might do just that! In a 2007 research study, students engaged in high-quality music programs performed better on standardized tests when compared to students in schools with deficient music programs, regardless of socioeconomic level. Another report by the College Board SAT found that on the 2012 SAT, students who participated in music scored an average of 31 points above average in reading, 23 points above average in math, and 31 points above average in writing.

Music education doesn’t just impact performance on tests; it may have an effect on students’ IQ. A 2004 study reported that a group of children assigned to music lessons performed better on an IQ test than children in groups with no lessons. While an IQ test is not a perfect measure of a student’s intelligence or academic aptitude, it bolsters the argument that music lessons provide a measurable difference in academic performance.

2. Music Lessons Improve Students’ Academic Skills

In addition to IQ and standardized tests, music lessons also improve students’ academic performance. In a study of first graders who were behind the control group on reading and math skills, after participating in special music classes, they caught up to the control group after only seven months of training.

For those concerned about the difference between correlation and causation, a 2020 study by music educator Martin J. Bergee tested the effects of music education while factoring in the variable factors of race, geographical location, income level, and education level. His original intent was to confirm his suspicion that the research proving music lessons’ power on students was simply a correlation and not music education causing all the effects. He was wrong. After controlling for all the variable factors, he found that the connection between mathematical achievement and music are inexplicably connected.

Math and reading are not the only academic skills that music lessons improve. Students who study music see benefits in the areas of patterns, language skills, spatial awareness, and memorization, to name a few.

3. Music Lessons Develop Students’ Creativity

Creativity is a key skill for anybody, especially in a changing academic environment like the world post-pandemic. Music lessons teach students to think outside the box and find solutions to problems. Creativity is not so much an innate talent but a muscle that needs to be flexed. Music lessons are the perfect workout for that muscle group. Lee Secard, Jazz Department Chair and Director of the Colburn Jazz Workshop’s recognizes this:

Like other musical skills, creativity must be considered, practiced, and experienced. Lee Secard
“Creativity, like other aspects of music study and performance, is at times spontaneous. At other times it seems elusive. The compositional, improvisational, and interpretative musical processes are similar. Like other musical skills, creativity must be considered, practiced, and experienced. Students must learn to avoid the idea of “perfection” (which is not possible!) in order to develop this aspect of their artistic persona. In music study, the student engages in the activity of moving forward and through the work required to create the performance.”

One of the most powerful ways that music lessons teach creativity is through improvisation. At Colburn, improvisation is pursued through the understanding of the principles of music theory and through dedicated practice with experienced instructors. Jazz faculty member Liz Kinnon understands the benefits of improvisation in the pursuit of creativity.

Liz Kinnon wearing a scarf and smiling in front of a window.
Improvisation is a lifelong adventure of discovery. At the core is learning to listen while keeping an open mind and heart. Liz Kinnon
“Improvisation is a lifelong adventure of discovery. At the core is learning to listen while keeping an open mind and heart. Creating and expressing new ideas—every time out—takes a willingness to study, explore, and become comfortable taking risks. For this, we are richly rewarded.”

The science reinforces the importance of improvisation and the role it plays in creativity. A Tufts University research study, showed that music improvisation primed the participants for creativity and provided a boost in their creativity. In other words, jazz improvisation provides a jolt for creativity!

Music Interpretation and Creativity

One of the ways students learn creativity is through interpretation of music. While classical music holds strongly to the written music, there is significant room for infusing one’s personal interpretation through use of dynamics, articulation, and tempo. At the Community School of Performing Arts, our teacher’s empower students to build their personal sound, not just copy another artist. This forces Colburn students to make creative choices and interpret music in new and exciting ways.

Composition and Creativity

In addition to improvisation and interpretation, students develop their creativity through composition. Putting together technical knowledge of instruments, understandings of music theory, and comprehension of past musical styles, composition students push themselves to create new musical ideas and works.

Composer and Colburn Composition faculty member Jordan Nelson has felt this cognitive and creativity boost through composition:

I think that the fuel that I get from being creative with sound was one of the elements that drew me to compose in the first place. Jordan Nelson
“I feel invigorated after a good composing session. My energy, my mood, my focus, and my self-confidence are all boosted. In fact, I think that the fuel that I get from being creative with sound was one of the elements that drew me to compose in the first place. I find that I can often apply the motivation that I’ve accumulated from composing towards other aspects of my work and life. In short, I believe I am more joyous about my other responsibilities when I’ve been able to work on writing music recently.”

Jordan also stresses the importance of creativity in his work as a teacher. He emphasizes that “this is part of what motivates me as a teacher, too, as I love to cultivate this joy for (and practice with) creativity in other people.”

4. Music Lessons Develop Communication and Expression

Music is about communication. Not just musical concepts, but feelings, emotions, ideas. Music lessons allow students to explore their emotions and communicate them to an audience. Well-rounded musicians are not just great technicians, they can communicate feelings and ideas through their music. By understanding this, the Community School faculty develop students’ technical skills in order that they might be able to convey emotion through their music.

One notable example of the power of music to convey ideas and emotion is Community School student Grace Rosewood. A student of the Adaptive Music Program, Grace has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and is without speech but has found her voice through music. Her mother, Olivia, says it best: “I used to say, ‘Grace cannot yet speak.’ Now I understand that Grace can speak—through music. It took the well-tuned ear of an individual like Ms. Bori [Grace’s private lessons teacher] to detect the whisperings of Grace’s spirit—to hear it, to interpret it, and to nourish it into thriving growth.” Grace demonstrates the power to develop communication and expression skills.

An incredible training ground for developing these communication and expression skills is the stage. The Community School strongly believes in the power of performance and provides many performance opportunities for all its students. Throughout each academic year, students showcase their talents at hundreds of free performances at Colburn.

Even during the pandemic, performances are still a priority. One of the most revered traditions at the School are the Friday Night Recitals, a weekly recital series for private lesson students at the Community School. While online, the beloved series lived on. Redesigned for Zoom, the Community School hosted over 35 recitals during Summer and Fall 2020 with over 300 student performances.

5. Music Lessons Teach Valuable Life Skills

Music lessons are intellectually, physically, and artistically demanding pursuits. The gorgeous music you hear from musicians that seems to flow from them as easily as walking is really a result of years of dedicated work and practice. While that may not sound like a reason to sign your child up for lessons, the discipline and dedication your child learns from music lessons is an invaluable life skill. Whether in their academic education or professional career, discipline learned from music lessons is a trained skill that provides value to them.

In addition to discipline, music lessons teach confidence! Getting up on a stage, dressed in formal wear, and playing a solo in front of friends, family, or strangers can be a harrowing ordeal for many people. However, by practicing and acquiring the skills and technique to accomplish performances can be an incredible way to build confidence.

In the Suzuki program at Colburn, students as young as five are given opportunities to perform, most notably in the Suzuki Musicales, a monthly performance for violin and cello students. If you aren’t familiar with Suzuki, this method, founded by Japanese violinist Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, rests on the philosophy that every child is born with musical ability that can be nurtured and developed to a high level. The program at Colburn consists of group classes and private lessons. While a Suzuki recital may not seem like an investment in the future, learning to perform and building self-confidence translates into better public speaking, presenting, and better managing of other stressful life situations like job interviews or important tests.

6. Music Lessons Provide Joy and a Sense of Community

Finally, we get to one of our favorite benefits of music lessons. They are just plain fun! Being able to play music is a true thrill. Listening to music is great, but playing it is the next level of enjoyment. Whether nailing a tricky cadenza or finally accomplishing a complex rhythm passage, the joy of playing music is an incredible feeling.

Also, by studying an instrument and acquiring technical skills, students are able to access and play whole libraries of repertoire, from Bach, Tchaikovsky, Schoenberg, Philip Glass, and everything between. The world of music is enormous and lessons from an experienced teacher is a gateway to all that music.

While playing music by yourself feels amazing, music lessons provide students the ability to play with others. Participating in an ensemble like an orchestra or choir provides a sense of community and unity. When you lock in the tuning of a chord all together or flawlessly execute a perfect cadence to your musical phrase, all seems to be right in the world. Playing music with others creates a scenario where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It requires discipline and collaboration, but the outcome is sublime.

Ensembles are central to the musical experience at Colburn’s Community School. Ensembles build collaboration, cohesion, and community. These essential groups reinforce techniques learned in private lessons and provide an outlet for musical expression.

The Community School’s ensemble programs serve 800 students in over 33 ensembles. Colburn has developed groups for a wide range of skill levels, ages, instruments, and genres. The diverse offerings include Bands, Chamber, Instrumental, Jazz, Orchestral, and Vocal.


From academic boosts to increased creativity, students studying piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, voice, or percussion receive tangible benefits. For parents wondering about whether to pay for lessons for their child, not only can they count on their child being immersed in the performing arts and music, While music is its own reward, music lessons are an intellectual catalyst and aid in human-development.

Get Involved with the Community School!

If you or your child want to get started in music lessons at the Community School with one of our renowned faculty, start by submitting an inquiry.

We recognize some students may require financial support to cover the cost of their studies. In this case, we offer merit and need-based scholarships for fall and spring semesters. Applications are due May 1, 2021.

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