How Kanye Saved My Grade

Albert Einstein once said: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” Though Einstein himself was an avid music fan and dabbled in violin, he may be speaking to more than just the joy of music.

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Studies have verified that studying and practicing music will help improve overall intelligence, confirming a direct link between taking music lessons and a boost in overall IQ and grades.

You don’t have to be a musician to enjoy the cognitive benefits of music, though – a study from the University of Toronto shows that even just listening to music can provide short-term effects that increase productivity and intelligence.

For students at Hyde interested in playing a musical instrument, performing, writing music, or studying sound engineering and stage production, there are classes year-round offered through the Music Department on the Bath campus. The Woodstock campus produces a major musical production every year as an alternative to specific music classes.

The Bath curriculum provides hands-on experience in a state-of-the-art recording studio donated by Grammy-award winner and Hyde alumni parent Michael McDonald (Dylan, Hyde-Bath ’07) of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. Added to the mix is an annual Songwriters Workshop, a trip to Nashville to record, and a Summer Songwriters Workshop, offered to students on both campuses. The programs feed the students’ curiosity and confidence by teaching them to write, perform, and appreciate music.

Music is a good thing in and of itself. Your favorite song can put a smile on your face. A tune on the radio can bring you back to a happy memory. Writing a song can be an important emotional outlet. Beyond all that music already offers, it’s great to know that it offers so much more – and you might not even have to know it to reap its many benefits.

So dust off your guitar and clear your throat to practice your harmonies (or, at the very least, throw on your favorite album). Here are but a few of the ways that music can empower you, increase your intelligence, sharpen your senses, and inspire your young mind to keep working towards improvement and fulfillment:

Music can increase productivity 

Think of the public places you go and the music they play. What kind of effect does that music have on how you feel about that place? Shopping malls and stores play energized, upbeat music to help maintain shoppers’ moods and energy levels. Coffee shops often play softer, simpler songs to enable the productivity of their caffeinated customers working away on their laptops. Researchers confirm that the music you listen to affects your mood and your emotional space.

In the academic world, students can use this to their advantage. If you’re feeling like you need inspiration, listen to music that makes you feel like you can rise to the occasion. If you feel stressed and need a release, listen to music that will bring a feeling of relief into your life. As any student knows, focusing on schoolwork is challenging when you’ve reached your stress limit – so rely on the magic of music to bring you back to a positive headspace. Playlists dedicated to inspiring you (like this one) and/or de-stressing (like this one) can be an excellent tool to aid your schoolwork!

Music can foster critical thinking

To revisit the earlier example of Albert Einstein, the great physicist himself used to get stuck on really difficult problems. When he felt like he was faced with a mental block, Einstein would turn to music to help him sort out his ideas. His son, Hans Einstein, said that “[w]henever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”

Although taking breaks from hard mental work like rigorous studying or formulating complex ideas, breaks are important. Though some students feel guilty taking a break (and some, perhaps, don’t feel quite guilty enough!), music offers a great opportunity for students to recalibrate their mood and feel joyful and entertained – while still offering cognitive benefits. Unlike when one watches television or loses track of time on their cell phone, practicing an instrument or listening to music actively stimulates brain activity.

Taking a break from hard brain work to listen actively to music or play your favorite instrument will not only be enjoyable, but will do the double-duty of helping you enjoy yourself while keeping your brain buzzing with an intellectual spark.

Music education advances skills that are prized in academia

According to the Arts Education Partnership, music education is beneficial for reasons even beyond the good of music. For instance, learning an instrument can help improve your fine motor skills. The cognitive power that the brain uses to process music is the same as in processing math, which results in strengthened cognitive pathways. Music training has been shown to improve overall SAT scores (especially in the areas of mathematics and in verbal testing).

Though music has been proven to improve these concrete skills, it also is strongly correlated to the development of characteristics necessary to be successful in the academic world. For instance, a person who embarks in musical education (even if they just took music lessons as a child) has increased abilities to pay attention. In a distracted world, with so many enticing opportunities to be entertained, the ability to pay attention and hold focus is increasingly important – especially as one enters college, where attention, focus, and hard work take a person a long way.

Music also helps to nurture a mindset of creativity. Music, like all art forms, highly value creativity and innovation. Even if one is simply learning how to play the flute in band class, the kind of problem solving and cooperation that is asked of students in the musical education setting translates to the traditional classroom.

TED-Ed video by Anita Collins entitled “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain”

According to Edison Research, Americans listen to audio for more than four hours each and every single day, with only about 8% of those four hours being dedicated to non-musical mediums. With music such an integral part of American life, it’s important to know that music can offer more than just entertainment and joy.

Music can be used as an inspiration to the young mind – whether the listener is aware of the way music inspires the brain to grow and learn or not. Students should try using active music-listening as a way to take a break from studying or use music to set the mood for productivity when they need it. Using music as a tool for growth is an awesome way to work towards your goals and have fun while doing it! So turn up the Kanye!