Connected to everything else: Music and the curriculum

By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

Our last installment in the present series on arts education explored the cognitive and affective characteristics of the gifted and talented pupil and a few of the ways in which the arts contribute to metacognition, school persistence and the development of ‘sound habits of mind’ that prove useful within and across the academic disciplines.

As the reader will note, for the gifted, the impacts of arts immersion are equally significant. Exempli gratia, the research in aggregate suggests that in the context of gifted and talented education, carefully staged engagement in the arts offer occasions for:

  • Designed reinforcement and redundancies across the curriculum (enhances scaffolding and the transfer of concepts and processes from short-term to longer-term memory)

  • Slower, more interactive learning versus ‘teaching to the test’ (takes longer, but builds more complex and intelligent neural networks)

  • Mutually reciprocal benefits (other disciplines help to develop proficiency in the arts—offering choice and depth/complexity)

  • Potential to mitigate perfectionist tendencies (allowing creative freedom; no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers)

  • Informed intellectual risk taking, as well as the opportunity to pursue the tacit, tangible and emotionally inspiring

The research in aggregate also provides valuable thematic findings when arts disciplines are further discerped. For example, consider the benefits of meaningful inclusion of music within the P-12 curriculum:

  • Enhances biological survival (we are hard wired for music—attracting mates, imitation, etc.)

  • Advances cognitive systems (visual-spatial; analytical; mathematical; creative)

  • Advances stress-response systems

  • Improves memory, concentration and recall

  • Improves ability to follow directions, work collaboratively and/or individually

  • Positively affects emotional systems, including enhancement of cultural understanding; social skills; personal skills

In the next segment of this series, we explore the impacts of other artistic disciplines – including the digital and industrial arts – on teaching and learning in schools. Future installments will offer practical strategies for arts integration for teachers and suggestions to garner support for arts integration from administrators, staff and parents.

For any questions about this article or our series on the arts in education, please contact Morgan Appel directly at

Posted: 2/21/2014 12:00:00 AM with 0 comments
Filed under: Arts, Brain, Education-2, Gifted, Mathematics, Music, Performing-arts, Reading, Science, Steam, Visual-arts, Writing

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