Music Education and Happiness

Authored by: Susan Hallam , Francisco Cuadrado

The Routledge Handbook of Positive Communication

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138633278
eBook ISBN: 9781315207759
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the ways in which participating in music education can enhance happiness. The evidence from different elements of music education is considered adopting as a framework the six virtues set out by the Values in Action Institute (VIA) under the direction of Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) and developed into 24 human strengths, from an eudaimonic conception of happiness: wisdom and knowledge (curiosity, love of learning, open-mindedness, creativity, perspective); courage (bravery, persistence, authenticity, vitality) humanity (love, kindness and generosity, social intelligence); temperance (self-regulation, prudence, humility and modesty, forgiveness); justice (citizenship, fairness and equity, leadership) and transcendence (appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, spirituality, playfulness). The evidence suggests that children’s responses to opportunities in school music classes to explore music-making opportunities through improvisation and composition encourage curiosity and creativity. Young children are also open-eared, and active music making can support openness to new experiences. Children and young people enjoy their music lessons and love learning and performing a wide range of music. Listening to music, in and out of school, makes a major contribution to children and young people’s well-being through its impact on the emotions and moods and encourages the appreciation of beauty, while having instrumental music lessons supports persistence and self-regulation, the most successful young musicians also setting themselves goals enhancing prudence. Playing in musical groups develops skills relating to teamwork and communication skills, which can contribute to the development of leadership qualities. Active engagement with making music also enhances awareness of equity issues and the desire to contribute to the community. When children actively make music, this often leads to public performance, which even in young performers can lead to performance anxiety they must overcome, demonstrating motivation and courage. Overall, music education in its various forms seems to be able to make a valuable contribution toward the well-being and happiness of children and young people.

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