First, music serves the aesthetic experience. The musical aesthetic experience involves perception of meaning through sound images rather than through written language, conversation, mathematical formula, or other forms of expression. The development of one’s aesthetic sense has been shown to enhance the quality of life both during school years and throughout later life. Music’s importance as an avenue to self-realization has been affirmed by psychologists such as Rogers and Maslow.
Second, music plays an important role in culture. Music is a representation of the highest thoughts, achievements, and aspirations of humankind, and in it much of a culture’s customs, values, and beliefs are embedded. Music is thus an important communicator of a culture’s heritage. However, music’s communication is abstract; the student must be taught to read this abstract symbol system in order to understand it.
Finally, because music education is based on the way the mind comprehends music, it can influence the development of the higher cognitive processes in ways not possible in other subject areas. Recently publicized research at the University of California-Irvine shows that structured music education enhances students’ spatial intelligence, an important element in mathematical reasoning and logic. Additional research has shown that the mind must have rich, sensory experiences if it is to develop to its highest potential. Students deprived of sensory stimulation such as that provided by music have been likened by educational researchers to youths who have sustained a degree of brain damage. Study in music has also been found to increase creativity and critical and divergent thinking, important skills not only for developing self-understanding but also for the present and future work place.
Obviously, all of these benefits are directly related to one’s mastery of the ways of thinking and knowing in music and to one’s ability to read and understand the nuances of meaning which it contains. This is the reason that music must be recognized as an important basic in education.