Does Studying Music and Sound Design Enhance Academic Abilities in Undergraduate Non-Music Majors? A Phenomenological Approach



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Numerous studies show a correlational relationship between the study of music and academic achievement, but what principles of music study enhance the higher order learning skills required for academic excellence? This research study looked at the experiences of students at UT Dallas taking music and sound design classes who are not music majors, through a Qualtrics survey and follow-up interviews. The data from the survey and interviews was analyzed using phenomenological methods. Additionally, three cohort comparisons were conducted: music and sound design students; STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors and non-STEM majors; and ATEC (Arts, Technology and Emerging Media) majors and other STEM majors. From the analyses, we conclude students who have taken music and sound design courses feel that those experiences enhance their lives in many ways, and the majority of them feel it enhances their academic abilities.

Students benefit by the nature of their experiences in music and sound design, but they benefit the most from the more analytical aspects of music and sound design courses. Those that had taken music theory saw a great benefit from those experiences. They benefit from the experience of listening to aural streams for extended periods of time with attentiveness to detail. Students experience “flow” during music or sound design experiences, which may transfer to other subjects. Students benefit from the two-dimensional nature of both music and sound design by the requirement of analyzing a score or sound design project in both the vertical and horizontal directions.

The results of this work can lead to future research projects, and use the specific skills that were reported by students as a testing ground for evidence-based research. Further, the study has pedagogical implications for curriculum in both music and sound design. Courses should place more emphasis on the analytical skills that transfer to other academic subjects. While study in music and sound design gives students many psychological benefits, the educational benefits should be studied more and in a controlled environment, in order to significantly add to the body of evidence that courses in the arts can lead to higher academic achievement.



Sound design, Phenomenology, STEM to STEAM, Music in education, Musical analysis, Music--Instruction and study, Music--Psychological aspects, Music theory


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