Why Do So Many Successful People Have Music Backgrounds?

What an interesting question.  The New York Times takes a look.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.

Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?

The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Why Do So Many Successful People Have Music Backgrounds?

  • October 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Interesting, but meandering article in Economist "Instruments of Mass Delight" covered this, including:
    "…Brain scans of musicians who learned music at an early age reveal accumulations of white matter in the corpus callosum—a bundle of nerve fibres that connect the motor regions of the brain’s right and left hemispheres. When tested, such people are way above average at synchronising their limbs with cues from their eyes and ears. That does not mean teaching children music at an early age will boost their IQs and improve their performance at school generally, as was once widely believed. The so-called “Mozart effect”—the suggestion that children taking music lessons will also garner some generalised educational benefit—has been thoroughly debunked by researchers at the University of Toronto as “a complete waste of time”. Children studying music tend to do well at school for social, not cognitive, reasons. Typically, they come from homes where parents have had more education, have higher incomes and have greater expectations than average. Put another way, high-achieving kids take music lessons…"

  • October 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I'm certain that those who had privileged childhoods were often afforded exposure to the arts (music, dance etc.). I would argue that the largest influence was money, and not necessarily music.

  • October 15, 2013 at 8:25 am

    “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful idiots are always asking,

    Thank you,


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