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  • Writer's pictureClaire

Music Education: A Tool for Social and Emotional Learning

We are exposed to several important social and learning environments throughout development such as school, daycare, extracurricular activities, the workplace, and our home. As a child, the environments we are exposed to can be an important medium for early learning of both course-based curricula and general life skills. These places are where we learn how to interact effectively with our peers, teachers, and mentors, which requires social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning involves the ability to recognize our own and others’ emotions and manage them to effectively engage with others (1). This learning also supports our ability to set positive goals and make responsible decisions and supports health and well-being from childhood into adulthood (1). It follows that we, as a society, want to do our best to promote this development. One of the tools to do this appears to be through music education.

Music education and activities promote collaboration, fostering social connections that support well-being. A study that surveyed social connections in children, found that children in music and singing-focused classes were more likely to have balanced social relationships and feel less lonely (1). Children as young as 6-months old can see the benefits of music activity which promotes the bond with their guardian, supports the development of self-confidence, and reduces anxiety (1). For older adults as well, participating in music activities and listening to music in a group has been shown to promote a sense of community belonging, build trust, and support personal development (1). But how can music do all of this?

Edited image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Listening to music in the presence of others has been shown to decrease stress through a reduction in the secretion of cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response (2). Listening to music may also prompt the secretion of endorphins, the release of which is associated with positive emotions (2). These physiological processes can support social bonding and a sense of connection. Another element of music and music activity that supports social connection is exposure to a variety of musical traditions. Music activity can foster an environment for learning and appreciating different cultures which supports personal development and social acceptance (1). It seems evident that music activity can support the development of social learning skills, what about emotional learning?

Music from a variety of styles tells a story, often expressing the highs and lows of life through the artists’ perspective. In these musical pieces, emotions are conveyed in a variety of ways such as changes in volume, percussion, or tempo. Children who participate in group music activities learn how to recognize emotion from these musical cues. The emotional recognition skills they develop extend beyond music to facial expression and verbal communication (1). Participating in music activities in an environment where children feel safe and supported can also promote the healthy expression of emotion. Additionally, the social and emotional learning skills of emotional self-regulation and empathy are also supported by participation in music activities (1). It appears that music education and activity support the development of a variety of social and emotional learning, but why are these skills important?

Life will always contain things that both excite and challenge us, and cause us to feel happy, sad, and any emotion in between. Developing the skills to recognize, express, and manage our emotions supports us to effectively engage with our peers, cope with challenges, and ask for help when we need it (1). These skills support our achievement in both academic and professional contexts and promote healthy relationships. All of which support health and well-being throughout our lives.


Written by Claire

  1. Váradi, J. A Review of the Literature on the Relationship of Music Education to the Development of Socio-Emotional Learning. SAGE Open. 2022; 12(1).

  2. Linnemann, A., Strahler, J., Nater, U. M. The stress-reducing effect of music listening varies depending on the social context. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016; 72; 97-105.


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