US: Academic benefits of choral singing

Children who sing in choruses have greater academic success and more advanced social skills than children who don't sing, a national study by Chorus America has found. Large majorities of parents and educators surveyed for the study attributed a significant part of a child's academic success to singing in a choir.

The 2009 study, commissioned by Chorus America, benchmarked a study in 2003 to evaluate the benefits of choral singing and its impact on communities. Results from the latest research supported earlier findings that adult choral singers exhibit increased social skills, civic involvement, volunteerism, philanthropy and support of other art forms compared with non-singers.

The latest research included a new component that explicitly examined the effects choral singing has on childhood development. The results show children who sing in choirs display many of the enhanced social skills found in adult singers, substantiating earlier conclusions that singing in childhood is likely to have an enormous influence on the choices individuals make later in life.

Children who sing in choruses have academic success and valuable life skills. More than 10 million American now children sing in choruses and the majority of parents believe multiple skills increased after their child joined a chorus. Seventy-one percent said their child had become more self-confident, 70% that self-discipline had improved, and 69% that the child's memory skills had improved.

More than 80% of educators surveyed - across multiple academic disciplines - agreed with parent assessments that choir participation enhanced numerous aspects of a child's social development and academic success. Educators also observed that children who sang were better participants in group activities, had better emotional expression and exhibited better emotional management.

Ninety percent of the educators believed that singing in a choir could keep some students engaged in school who might otherwise be lost, particularly among those who described the ethnicity of their schools as diverse.

Children who participated in a chorus had significantly better grades than those who had never sung in a choir: 45% of parents whose children sang said their child received "all or mostly As" in mathematics (compared with 38% of non-choir parents) and 54% received "all or mostly As" in English and other language arts classes (compared with 43%).

The study report said the decline in choral singing opportunities for children was of concern.

"The data in this report confirms that, in addition to providing great musical performances, choruses advance many of the positive qualities associated with success in life for children and adults," said Ann Meier Baker, President and CEO of Chorus America. "These benefits are particularly relevant in addressing the challenges in society today."