When Memorial Middle School student William Galvan picks up his viola and plays smooth melodies in his orchestra class or practices at home, he’s not only learning how to create beautiful music, but he’s helping improve his academic performance as well.
“Reading music is just like reading one of my favorite novels,” said Galvan, sixth grade. “It puts me into another world. Reading music helped me read better and understand the novel more.”
Galvan is one of over 3,500 students active in music programs at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District and his improved reading skills are a common occurrence in music students. Beyond its ear pleasing value, music education has been connected to multiple areas that benefit a student’s grades and tests scores.
“We give them an instrument and a venue to learn and what ends up happening is that over time the student will begin to feel a function within our academic system,” said Jason Hooper, Director of orchestral studies at Harlingen High School South, Coakley Middle School and Vela Middle School. “In turn, students will begin to succeed in their classes and their grades go up.”
Enrolled in her first year of orchestra, Ericka Medrano, sixth grade student at Memorial, has already seen a change in her classroom performance. She specifically recalls the effect that it has had on her grades in one particular subject.
“My reading grades have gone up,” said Medrano. “In Orchestra, you have to pay attention to the music. When you are reading, you have to pay attention to the words. It has helped me pay attention to what my teacher is saying and what I’m reading.”
Its effects aren’t only felt in the classroom. Music programs have been shown to promote the development of a student’s social skills, confidence and language processing ability.
“It not only benefits their grades, but they do better in sports, social situations and relationships,” said Hooper. “It really is all across the board that we see improvement.”
These acquired skills can come in handy during a student’s transition into a new stage in their academic career. The progression from eighth to ninth grade has been shown to be one of the most pivotal in a student’s education. With the first year of high school representing, on most occasions, an indicator of their future academic performance.
“Being in orchestra has helped my transition from middle school to high school go a lot smoother,” said Eliud Cardenas, junior and violin player at Harlingen High School South. “It helped me develop socially and make friends from all of the different middle schools my first year. I know it has helped me be more successful in high school.”
For students interested in participating in one of HCISD’s music programs, they are encouraged to contact their counselor. Hooper encourages all students considering enrollment to begin their musical journey as early as possible to ensure they have the best opportunity to gain all the benefits that are associated with participating.