Adolescent-Teen Years (pt.3)

High School’s Musical 

Exposing children to a strong music education can be crucial for their earliest formative years (check our last two posts for a refresher on the impacts this can have on infancy through elementary school).  The closer kids creep toward teenagedom, however, it can become increasingly easy to forget that they are still developing… and that their exposure to music is arguably at its peak of importance. 

As a closer to our music in education series, we’ll dive into the effects of both listening to and playing music from the crucial years of adolescence all the way through early adulthood.   

From Band Camp to College

Music Classroom.jpg

Continuing music classes throughout high school can have a significant impact on students’ overall academic performance.  A recent study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology revealed that high school students who continued to play a musical instrument tested up to a full year ahead of their peers in English, Math and Science.  

No significant differences in scores across socioeconomic status, gender, or race were observed, suggesting that learning an instrument was of equal benefit to participating students. 

Although not all junior high and high schools offer formal music or band classes, the case for playing music as an extracurricular is strong.  Private lessons and local organizations like Spyhop and School of Rock are great options for teens looking to grow as musicians, but joining a good old fashioned garage band can’t hurt either. 

Music is Life--- Literally


For those who have never played a musical instrument, research suggests that the music we listen too can also have its own profound impacts, particularly in adolescence through early adulthood. 

 In his 2014 piece Neural Nostalgia, Mark Joseph Stern explains: 

“Between the ages of 12 and 22, our brains undergo rapid neurological development—and the music we love during that decade seems to get wired into our lobes for good.”  He goes on to describe this as the time period when our hormones and emotions become tied to our musical tastes… and contribute significantly to the formation of our identities.  

Though not frequently accessed, there’s a wealth of research to support the unique and significant role music plays in adolescent psychological development. In a 2013 review published in The International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, it is estimated that adolescents and teens listen to up to three hours of music a day. This level of exposure combines with the plasticity of the developing brain, and affects “at least seven major areas... aesthetics; identity; socialisation; emotion regulation and coping; personality and motivation; gender roles; and positive youth development.”   

In short, the way we interact with music in adolescence is more than just a phase… it is deeply connected to the adults we all become.