In talking about the need for a well-rounded education, Secretary Duncan has consistently invoked the importance of keeping arts in the mix. Over the past three years, researchers at Northwestern University have teamed up with the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program based in Los Angeles, as well as public charter schools in Chicago, to investigate just how important the arts are to learning.
Harmony Project works with students, such as Fatima Salcido, who enrolled in group violin classes during middle school. Since then, she has been a high achiever. Through diligent practice, Fatima earned her way into private lessons and membership in the Hollywood Youth Orchestra, one of Harmony Project’s most elite ensembles. In addition to these activities, during her last two years of high school Fatima gave weekly private violin instruction to a less-advanced musician as a volunteer peer mentor. Fatima has gone on to earn a full four-year scholarship to Tulane University, where she is currently a neuroscience pre-med major and a member of the Tulane University orchestra.
Looking at Fatima’s success and that of others in Harmony Project, Northwestern is conducting a longitudinal study that investigates the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development. In particular, neuroscientists are evaluating how music education affects learning skills, communication abilities, and biological development in underserved, grade-school-aged children participating in Harmony’s mentoring program.