Research Project Examines the Value of Music Education

“Sounds of Learning” study soliciting research proposals.

March 18, 2005

With funds for music and arts education being slashed across the country, the International Foundation for Music Research (IFMR), a nonprofit foundation funded in part by NAMM, the International Music Products Association, has launched a major research project designed to expand knowledge of the value music plays in a quality education. The organization is currently soliciting research proposals for this important undertaking.

IFMR has contributed $150,000 toward projects that will be funded under “Sounds of Learning: The Impact of Music Education,” an authoritative examination of music education’s influence on academic achievement, children’s growth and development, how music is used in people’s daily lives and how it impacts school, home and work environments. Additional funds available for contract research have been provided by the Fund for Improvement of Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

By inaugurating the “Sounds of Learning: The Impact of Music Education” project, IFMR executives aim to assemble quantifiable, unimpeachable data on some of the finer points in the ongoing music education discussion. There has been an abundance of credible research showing the immediate as well as long-term value of music education, but this new project, which will comprise numerous research studies, delves deeper into specific areas of study as it relates to the benefits of teaching music and encouraging the playing of music in school-age children.

“As evidenced by the debates over the federal government’s No Child Left Behind initiative and the continuing discussions in state houses across the country, key decision-makers and academics are hungry for the best research on music education’s importance,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of IFMR. “We’re soliciting proposals from the top researchers interested in conducting an authoritative, important study of this crucially important topic.”

“Sounds of Learning” will be an extended project that has been divided into two phases. For Phase I, research proposals are due April 1, 2005, for projects into one of three topics:

  • A short-term quantitative study that will differentiate between the influence of high- and low-quality music programs on standardized test results. Specifically, the study will investigate the relationship between fourth- and eighth-grade students' end-of-grade test scores and their participation in school music programs recognized as either high- or low-quality programs.
  • A short-term qualitative study of student achievement and other related successes at a school within one school district that has been recognized for the quality of its music education programs. The study will be conducted in fall of this year. The results of this piece of the project are to be used as the basis for future research efforts.
  • Research into the importance of music education in teenagers’ lives, based on the analysis of essays written by 1,500 middle and high school students across the United States. The essays, which were done as part of an unrelated project, asked the students to express their feelings about music education. This piece of the “Sounds of Learning” enterprise aims to find how these essays connect with the project's major themes.

Results of all three research topics will be due on Jan. 3, 2006. Research requests for Phase II of the “Sounds of Learning” project, which will give closer focus to how music education impacts people’s home and work lives, are due later this summer.

For more information on the project, and to submit a proposal, interested parties can e-mail IFMR at

About IFMR:
The International Foundation for Music Research (IFMR) was founded in 1997 to support scientific research to explore the relationship between music and physical and emotional wellness, with particular attention to the elderly population, the impact of music making on at-risk youth, and music education and the effect of music and music making. IFMR also convenes scientists, educators and others around critical issues in music research and disseminates research through its publication, IFMR News, and various online research referral services and archives. For more information, visit