Joining a Music Ensemble May Help Immigrant Children Assimilate

Music may help build the great divide among culturally diverse children, according to a recent study. Researchers have brought hope to schools--a published study that shows playing music together may help integrate elementary-age migrant children into mainstream society

Herbie Hancock once said, “Music truly is the universal language.” There's research to prove it, too. Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard has come across an interesting study that shows more can be done to integrate migrant children into schools with their native peers. It may just be something as simple as playing music together.


The study comes out of Germany where a research team, led by psychologist Emily Frankenberg, has found an elementary ensemble may be a good solution to integrating migrant kids early on.

“Programs providing young migrants with the opportunity to perform music within a larger, culturally heterogeneous group can be viewed as an effective intervention to encourage adaptation and assimilation into mainstream culture.”

Researchers took 159 elementary school students from 14 different public schools whose backgrounds were either Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish. Out of these students, 62 of them were put in a weekly music class where they participated in practices with an instrument of their choosing. At the beginning of the study all 159 students were given a test to measure their cultural integration, and then again 18 months later.

The test consisted of a number of questions that tested their “behavior and attitudes in such domains as language use, music, and national pride.” It also sought to understand if they felt accepted by their peers. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that students who participated in the music ensembles felt valued by their peers--more so than those who did not participate in a music ensemble.

“Results indicate that it was the experience of collaborating and performing within a larger group which led to stronger host culture orientation.”

“For immigrant students, this may represent a key opportunity for social and cultural inclusion within the classroom and, from there, within wider mainstream society.”

It's important to note that 87 percent of the participants were born in Germany, so it would be interesting to see the reaction amongst a split group of non-native children to native ones, or even to see how it could help adults. Still, the study brings good news for a positive outlet to bring together cultures that may otherwise go through school feeling ostracized.

Read more at Pacific Standard

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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