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University Relations

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June 28, 2007
Contact: Erin Curtis-Dierks, School of Fine Arts, (785) 864-9742.

KU professor finds link between music programs, academic achievement

To read Christopher Johnson's report, “Examination of Relationships between Participation in School Music Programs of Differing Quality and Standardized Test Results,” visit

LAWRENCE - Music has inspired people to dance, sing and create songs of their own for centuries, but can it also inspire improved academic performance? A recently published study by University of Kansas professor Christopher Johnson argues that it does.

Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy and associate dean of the School of Fine Arts, had his study, “Examination of Relationships between Participation in School Music Programs of Differing Quality and Standardized Test Results,” published in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

Johnson also appeared before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year to present his research findings, which show connections between music education and child development and music's role in children's academic achievement, highlighting success in school.

Johnson conducted the research, as did two colleagues from other universities, as part of the NAMM Foundation's "Sounds of Learning: The Impact of Music Education" initiative. The findings were first presented on the Hill to house and senate staff members who advise the national representatives on educational matters. The results were again presented at the Sounds of Learning Conference, which was held in February in Washington, D.C. The NAMM and Grammy foundations that are funding research have interest in the continued opportunity for students to be able to access music in their public school systems. They are also actively representing the arts by participating in rewriting the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, using the data to influence changes that may be incorporated into future reauthorizations of the law, should it be renewed.

Johnson's research identified schools in four regions throughout the country. He studied elementary and middle schools in each region, comparing scores from schools that were similar demographically but had differing qualities of general, instrumental and choral music programs.

"We were looking at the effects that exceptional and substandard music teaching could have on standardized test scores," Johnson said. "We found there were significant differences between good programs and bad in both reading and math scores."

The results include analysis of the relationship between student participation in quality music education and standardized testing outcomes. Students at schools with superior music programs consistently scored higher. He also found that students who participated in lower quality band programs scored higher than those who did not participate in a music program at all. The disparities between groups' tests scores ranged from 17 percent to 23 percent.

"The differences were somewhat dramatic," Johnson said.


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