The Psychosocial Benefits of School Music:

Reviewing Policy Claims


  • Dr. Alexander Hew Dale Crooke Durdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • Prof. Paul Smyth University of Melbourne
  • Prof. Katrina Skewes McFerran The University of Melbourne


School music, psychosocial wellbeing, policy, extrinsic benefits, music programs, music participation


While policy-based advocacy for music in schools has previously focused on arguments for cognitive and academic benefits, scholars have increasingly critiqued this rationale. Such critique is now reflected in Australian policy documentation, which now emphasises psychosocial benefits as the most notable non-musical advantage of student music participation in mainstream schools. This paper uses recent research to review these claims, with a specific focus on the type of music participation that policy documents claim will achieve psychosocial benefits. This aims to both assess the suitability of current advocacy in this area, and bring existing evidence to the attention of policymakers. The article concludes that models of music participation must be broadened beyond the current definitions of music education if psychosocial benefits are to be experienced by students in mainstream schools.

Author Biographies

Prof. Paul Smyth, University of Melbourne

Paul Smyth is Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. His main research interests are the relationship between social policy and economic thought and also the role of the Not for Profit sector in social welfare.  He was the founding coordinator of the Master of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne while being also General Manager of the Research and Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence.   He is co-editor of Social Policy in Australia Understanding for Action (OUP) Remaking Global Social Policy for Policy Press (2017).

Prof. Katrina Skewes McFerran , The University of Melbourne

Professor Katrina Skewes McFerran is Head of Music Therapy and Co-Director of the National Music Therapy Research Unit at the University of Melbourne.  She has researched and published about the value of music with young people in a range of contexts over the past two decades, and her latest book is 'Creating Music Cultures in Schools: A perspective from Community Music Therapy’ (Barcelona Publishers, 2014) provides a rationale for transcending current music practices in schools to include wellbeing and community building agendas.  McFerran is also editor of the Open Access journal Voices: A world forum for music therapy.




How to Cite

Crooke, A. H. D., Smyth, P., & McFerran , K. S. (2022). The Psychosocial Benefits of School Music: : Reviewing Policy Claims. Journal of Music Research Online, 7. Retrieved from