The importance of, and lack of funding for, music education

In the past 12 years, there’s been a ton of research into the benefits of music education and all it helps provide students. So why isn’t a bigger deal made of it — and more funding secured to support it? 

Online music education provider Stars & Catz shows 80% of the 200 successful studies published about the benefits of music education have been published since 2012, indicating a growing interest in the topic. 

“This recent upward trend in the amount of research being undertaken means that the already impressive list of boons is only set to expand further,” the organization says. “Benefits of music education already identified include improvements in academic performance, IQ, attention span, memory, language, brain function, social skills, anxiety reduction and much more. Despite this, COVID showed that music education is still treated as an extra rather than a core of the school curriculum. During the pandemic, the subject was once again the first to be deprioritised when teaching time and budgets were squeezed.” 

Oli Braithwaite, Stars & Catz’ founder, says the current body of research shows that “music education acts as an accelerator to the development of a child’s brain. This makes it a crucial part of the school curriculum, as it supports learning in all other subjects while, at the same time, reducing anxiety and improving social relationships. It should be treated as a core pillar, not an extra.” 

There’s at least one organization that’s ready to help support an expanded effort and emphasis on music education and would like the rest of the country to get onboard. 

MusiCounts has announced a $1 million donation of instruments, equipment and other resources to 95 schools across Canada through the MusiCounts Band Aid program, providing schools grants worth up to $15,000 to furnish or refurbish their music programming and education programs. 

The announcement, made by Arkells’ frontman Max Kerman on MusiCounts’ TikTok account, also allowed for the launch of a partnership between MusiCounts and TikTok Canada to support secondary schools through the MusiCounts Band Aid Program and the MusiCounts Learn Kanata program. 

“TikTok will be donating a portion of funds raised to buy instruments for high schools across the country and tips for teaching with TikTok will be integrated into the Kanata resource. THe guide, a product of collaboration between several Indigenous educators, advisors and artists, led by Sherryl Sewepagaham, is a free resource for any educator who wishes to bring contemporary Indigenous music into the classroom,” the organization says. 

“The $1 million we’re awarding will transform what music education looks like at these schools,” says Kristy Fletcher, MusiCount’s executive director. “We’re so proud to be supporting new and existing music programs that represent all styles of music instruction to support young Canadians’ heritage, traditions and interests. By collaborating with TikTok Canada, who are supporting secondary schools through the MusiCounts Band Aid Program and the Kanata resource, we’re committing to evolving with music, technology and young voices across the country.” 

This isn’t the first year MusiCounts has made this kind of investment in musical education, but it’s the first year for such devotion to the territories, putting $173,000 into 16 schools there, plus another $218,500 for 18 schools in Atlantic Canada. An estimated 40% of the recipient schools identify as having large populations of BIPOC youth. A majority of schools, 65% of those who applied for help, have an annual budget of $500 or less for music education, making the donations provided by MusiCounts and its supporters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repair or replace old instruments or buy brand new ones. 

But the need still outpaces the assistance, as MusiCounts can only help about 25% of the schools that apply for support. 

More information on MusiCounts, including how to support the music education efforts, can be found here.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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