Survey: Music boosts students' success
Children who sing in a choir are more likely to improve their academic success and their social development, according to a recently published study.
Chorus America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on promoting professional and youth choruses, completed its 2009 Choral Impact Study this spring evaluating the benefits of choral singing and its affect on communities.
"I agree with everything they say," said Beth Tibbs, Arizona Western College professor and director of the Yuma Youth Choir. "I have always felt choir is way more than music."
She said many of her choir members began with no self-confidence, and singing helped build their self-esteem and strengthen their discipline. Choir participation is very transformative in every aspect of their lives, and just remembering lyrics or their part of melody lines sharpens cognitive skills, she said.
"Kids see the benefits themselves. They work as a team and that's a great life skill to learn. But the kids who want to be a superstar, they always drop out."
Robin Perry, Chorus America director of communications, noted in a news release that the survey found children who sing in choirs exhibit enhanced social skills such as volunteering and charitable giving.
The survey showed choral singing is the most popular form of performing arts for both adults and children. Today there are an estimated 42.6 million Americans singing in choruses - including 10.1 million children - up from 23.5 million in 2003.
Survey statistics showed 71 percent of parents responding said their children have become more self-confident and self-disciplined, while 69 percent report their child's memory skills have improved.
Eighty percent of educators responded that choir participation improved academic achievement, and children who sing are more willing participants in group activities.
Ninety percent of educators believe singing in a choir keeps some students engaged at school who otherwise would be lost. Finally, 45 percent of parents whose children sing report they get mostly A's in math and 54 percent in English versus 38 and 43 percent, respectively, for children who do not sing in a choir.
Ann Meier Baker, CEO of Chorus America, said she was overwhelmed by the results.
"Parents and educators were consistent and clear about the value of singing for youth. Yet whenever the economy is tough, the arts are the first to go and choruses are the first of the first. But our results show choral singing can contribute success for students and again later in life."
Kerry Jones, Yuma Elementary District 1 chief financial officer, said that despite having to trim $1.25 million from the district budget in the current fiscal year because of cuts in state aid, no amount has been reduced from music programs for this or next year.
"We feel the performing arts are a valuable part of education, especially for those that chose performing arts as a career," he said.
Tibbs said learning to read music, which is similar to learning a foreign language, develops connections in the brain that help improve every aspect in their education but particularly math.
"When students are involved with music, they are less likely to be involved with gangs, alcohol or drugs," Tibbs said. "The more positive students can focus their energies, the more fulfilling their lives in which they contribute to a positive world."
But because of the slumping economy, many public schools are planning to downsize or eliminate choir and orchestra programs, Tibbs said.
"It's a travesty. I used to teach in Yuma schools and I had students who told me the only reason they came to school is for my class."
Tibbs cautions her students if they want to be in choir, they must do well in other subjects. Talk of taking away music education is almost criminal, she said.
"There's been so many studies that have shown that being involved with a choir improves grades. Music is a spark. It inspires and gives hope to succeed in many academic areas."
William Roller can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6858.