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“PBS NewsHour Weekend” Feature — Todd Rundgren and Music Education

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  • Jennifer Gibson
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Veteran rocker Todd Rundgren came to Little Rock recently to spread a message about the importance of music education. Rundgren is best known for some of his early hits like “Bang the Drum All Day.” While he is still performing and writing new songs, he is also focusing on helping the next generation of music makers. His organization, Spirit of Harmony Foundation, held the "Symposium on the Moral Imperative of Music Education" at the Arkansas Statehouse Convention Center on April 18, 2015, with the help of the Clinton School of Public Service. 


The symposium included experts on the effects of music education, most notably Dr. Nina Kraus, Ph.D., professor and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. Kraus’ research, published recently in The Journal of Neuroscience, has shown that music education can help children process language, which in turn helps their reading abilities. 


Children who live in poverty frequently suffer from linguistic deprivation, which means they don’t hear as many words as their more privileged counterparts by the time they enter school. They are starting school at a disadvantage, and that achievement gap often grows, to the detriment of the children coming from poverty. Kraus’ studied the brainwaves and cognitive development of these children before and after music education, compared to those without music education. Her work shows that if those children are taught to play musical instruments and consistently practice, their brains are able to process sound and language more efficiently, and because of that, they can catch up with their peers academically. In other words, music education seems to help the children become better learners.

Rundgren and Kraus hope the symposium and other outreach by Spirit of Harmony Foundation will convince people to consider music education a priority when deciding how to fund their schools. 



Northwestern University Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory

Spirit of Harmony Foundation 


 "PBS NewsHour Weekend," Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m.