The Benefits of Music Education

The Benefits of Music Education

I wrote about the importance of physical activity, including Physical Education and sport at AIS. Another important pillar of the AIS curriculum is the Performing Arts, and in particular music. Most people appreciate that music contributes to students’ development as well-rounded individuals. What is less widely known is that studying music actually enhances students’ brain function and thus their ability to learn.


A study led by Dr Anita Collins from the University of Canberra concluded that formal music training has positive effects on several aspects of brain development. According to Dr Collins, “learning a musical instrument lights up all functions of the brain in a unique way, and improves vocal, vocabulary and memory skills.” Another study conducted at the University of London found that musical experiences enhance processing ability which, “can impact on the perception of language, which in turn impacts on learning to read.” There is also evidence to show that learning music can help students’ self-confidence, self-discipline and team work and, according to Nina Kraus from Northwestern University in Chicago, that “musical training during [childhood] may produce long-lasting
positive effects on the adult brain.”


Put in simple terms, learning music in general, and learning instruments in particular, helps students to progress in all of their academic subjects including the critical core of English, Science, Maths and Languages. In this light, students at AIS are well served in terms of musical education. Specialist music teachers are employed to deliver our music programmes for Kindergarten through to IB. There is a strong focus on learning instruments. In the primary school Year 4 students learn the recorder, Year 5 students, the ukulele, and in Year 6, guitar. From personal experience – I have twin daughters in Year 5 – I can attest that the karate belt system that is used has been particularly effective in motivating students to learn to play their instruments. Students learn progressively more challenging songs and as they master each one they are awarded a coloured ‘belt’ ( in the form of a ribbon which they can attach to their instrument), starting with white and culminating in the highly prized black belt.
In 2016, former Music teacher, Mr Andrew Sweeney made learning to play concert band instruments the basis of Year 8 – 10 Music classes at AIS. This continued the focus on learning to play an instrument. It also resulted in a major expansion of the music performance groups in the Secondary School to the point that by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year the Concert Band comprised 40+ members. Mr Colin Burstow, who took over from Mr Sweeney when he returned to Australia in June, has continued to enhance the performance music programme at AIS both in terms of quantity and quality. By the beginning of the second semester we will have five important ensemble groups: a Concert Band, Jazz Band, Junior Concert Band, Rock Band, and the Choir. The AIS Concert Band gave one of the standout performances at last month’s Saimuse Concert, an event involving music groups from most of the major international schools in Ho Chi Minh City, adding to AIS’s growing reputation for excellence in the performing arts.

Mark Vella – Deputy Executive and Secondary Principal