Those who love music and the arts in general know its immense power – and its amazing ability to express the inexpressible, and to make sense of things that may be unclear. Being creative is a good thing just because it is creative. It doesn't have to be anything else.
This can be very fulfilling and, of course, very enjoyable. It helps us function as whole human beings – which can only be good for society.
But in our modern, busy, target-driven world some people think that music is a bit of an indulgence. Some still believe that studying music and the arts is to take the easy option – something not of great use in the ‘real world’. Anxious parents steer their children towards the more traditionally academic subjects and away from the arts, whose academic merits are perceived to be nebulous, and its earning potential dubious.
However, increasingly research is showing that the arts pack a powerful punch in improving both employability and well-being. You might be surprised that 2014 figures show that the creative economy is 8.2% of the UK economy as a whole, includes 2.8 million jobs and is growing at more than twice the national average rate. It's quite clear that:
One reason is that if you create a sculpture, compose or perform a piece of music, or act on stage it has to come from within you. Young people have to set their own agenda, rather than follow set topics as in other subjects. They also have to make independent decisions all the way, and be self-critical – all things loved by employers.
The arts also tend to produce people with high levels of emotional intelligence. Employers appreciate the quality of discipline and the ability to accept criticism. (Steve Jobs famously said that he hired artists and musicians who were fascinated by technology rather than computer geeks). Research shows that those who study the arts at degree level are more likely to stay in employment.
Studying the arts can benefit both high-flying students and the less academic in terms of their personal well-being. The high flyers because they are able to find an outlet from the pressure of academia, and the less academic students because it can provide a platform from which they can shine and build their own confidence.
Recent research from the Cultural Learning Alliance has shown that:
Your cognitive abilities can go up by 17% if you take part in structured arts activities
Taking part in the arts at school triples your chance of getting a degree if you are from a low-income family
Young offenders are 18% less likely to re-offend if they take part in arts activities
You are 38% more likely to report good health if you take part in the arts