LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas researcher aims to conduct the most definitive investigation to date on why music matters in primary and secondary education.
Through an $18,500 grant through the Grammy Foundation, Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the School of Music, will examine the effect music participation has on school engagement and academic success in five large Midwestern school districts.
The KU project was one of 20 to receive a total of $300,000 in grant funding from the Grammy Foundation, which is funded through the Recording Academy. Grants went to organizations in the United States and Canada to support research, archiving and preservation programs.
The KU study is in response to nationwide cuts to arts and music programs as school funding declines and more emphasis is placed on standardized testing.
“Many decision makers see the value of music education, but currently existing quantitative data are not persuasive enough to stem the erosion of music programs and opportunity,” Johnson said.
Previously, he has worked with researchers from the School of Music and the KU Center for Public Partnerships & Research on studies that showed the number of semesters a student participated in music programs had a direct and positive effect on both the level of school engagement and academic achievement.
“Results indicated that more music involvement would be advantageous to the school system’s overall performance,” Johnson said.
The study funded through the Grammy Foundation grant portends to be more comprehensive than all previous work. Plans are to include more than 12,000 students in 21 high schools from five diverse school districts. Johnson will compile information on high school seniors (the data won’t identify the students), including their elementary standardized test scores, socioeconomic status, semesters spent participating in music and all aspects of their musical involvement in the program they participate in.
The data will allow Johnson to study how music participation has influenced students with similar academic and economic backgrounds.
Through the research, he hopes to further understand the nature of student characteristics and to what degree they might predict participation in music programs, to what degree music participation predicts levels of school engagement and academic achievement, and how school engagement predicts academic achievement.
“I hope this research will allow district decision makers to better understand the substantive value of music education for every student,” Johnson said. “Until now, most administrators and legislators have acknowledged the importance of a strong music education, but a study of this magnitude and rigor will encourage the scientific community to join the discussion, thus affecting policy.”
The Grammy Foundation was established in 1988 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture — from the artistic and technical legends of the past to the still unimagined musical breakthroughs of future generations of music professionals.
The foundation accomplishes this mission through programs and activities that engage the music industry and cultural community as well as the general public. The foundation works in partnership year-round with The Recording Academy to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of music and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich cultural heritage.
To learn more about the Grammy Foundation and its grant program, visit www.grammyfoundation.org/grants.