Why learning music 'makes kids smarter'

David Eccleston

New Australian research has revealed school kids who play music are better learners, triggering a call for state governments to employ music teachers in every classroom.

The research shows learning an instrument by 12 years of age makes the left side of the brain bigger, which has been linked to improved vocal, vocabulary and memory skills by the time kids become adults.

“Worldwide, the research is unmistakable and unrelenting that participation in music education improves outcomes in all sorts of other areas of schooling,” former Dean of Education at Melbourne university Professor Brian Caldwell said.

Professor Caldwell’s research involved some of the most disadvantaged schools in Australia in western Sydney, finding students studying in the arts, particularly music, gained a year in literacy scores, compared to students who were not studying music or the arts.

Experts say that when we play music, both sides of the brain light up simultaneously, creating neural pathways for learning.

According to Caroline Aebersold from Song Room, three out of four Australian schools do not have specialist teachers in music.

When we play music, both sides of the brain light up simultaneously, creating neural pathways for learning, say experts. Photo: 7News

“That equates to about 1.4 million children who don't have music teachers in their school,” she said.

“That’s where the Song Room comes in – we're working with about 20,000 children every week in every state of Australia to try and bridge that gap.”

Professor Caldwell is calling on state governments to lead the way.

“The question really is, why haven't state governments taken the initiative and shown the will to ensure there are music educations programs available for primary students in every school across the country?” he said.

The Song Room program costs $65,000 per year, per classroom to run, employing two music teachers part time.