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Uniting mind and music: Shaw's vision continues.

Gordon Shaw, best known to the public as a leader in the discovery of the "Mozart Effect" died in April [see obituary on page 20]. But his legacy uniting music and brain function will live on.

Shaw led a number of landmark studies that established the connection between active participation in music and the development of the brain, with demonstrated implications for spatial-temporal reasoning and math ability.

"Dr. Shaw's groundbreaking studies on active music making and higher cognitive functioning really led the way for other music researchers," said Mary Luehrsen, director of the International Foundation for Music Research.

According to the Associated Press, in 1973 he became interested in brain theory and began research on the brain's capacity for spatial reasoning and its use in such activities as solving mathematical problems and playing chess. With graduate student Xiaodan Leng, he devised a computer model of the brain. They used musical notes to represent areas of brain activity, and were surprised to find that the overall sound resembled classical music.

Shaw decided to test the results of classical music on the brain, initially studying three-year-olds and then college students. He gained national attention in 1993 when he reported that a group of college students who listened to Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major" saw their IQs increase as much as nine points. Hearing such music, Shaw speculated, might provide a "warmup exercise" for parts of the brain that perform high levels of abstract thinking.

And a later study, conducted in conjunction with psychologist Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, showed that preschoolers who were given piano lessons once a week scored 34 percent higher on tests designed to measure spatial-temporal reasoning skills--those required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering--than classmates who received no music lessons.

Music and arts advocates often cite these studies by Shaw in their efforts to keep music as part of the public school curricula.

In fact, Shaw himself used the results of these studies to further his dreams. After 30 years of scientific research at the University of California, Irvine, Shaw co-founded the non-profit M.I.N.D. (Music Intelligence Neural Development) institute in 1998, which has developed a curriculum that is producing dramatic test score improvements for more than 13,000 students in more than 67 elementary schools using piano keyboard training and a computer program designed to change the neural hardware needed for better math training.

Shaw's vision of teaching all kids, regardless of cultural and socio-economic background, how to think, reason and create mathematically is the foundation for the M.I.N.D. Institute's revolutionary Math+Music curricula. Shaw recognized that "music is a window to a higher brain function" and dedicated a lifetime to seminal research that has influenced numerous arts-related educational programs.

"Dr. Shaw's unwavering belief that each child has the ability to do complex math and should be given the opportunity to reach their full potential, especially children from disadvantaged backgrounds, has made it possible for the Institute to make a difference in the lives of so many children today," said Ted Smith, Chairman of the M.I.N.D. Institute, on the organization's website. "Dr. Shaw will be remembered as having a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. Dr. Shaw's work has had an impact on math and music education that will be clear in the years ahead, as a monument to a truly great man."


For further information about arts advocacy, got to the American Music Council's website at

For more details about the M.I.N.D. Institute and its work, go to

Jodi Burack, for the International Music Products Association (NAMM), contributed to this article
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Title Annotation:Forum Focus: Arts Awareness and Advocacy
Author:Burack, Jodi
Publication:American Music Teacher
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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