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Thanks to generous support by the National Endowment for the Arts, and our matching partners at the San Diego Children’s Choir, The University of California, San Diego has established a group of Early Academic Readiness and Learning Intervention (EARLI) studies that will test the influence of various school-day musical interventions on early childhood development.

New! Check out NEA's new Sound Health Network, which features many research projects on music, health and education as well as talks and other information. The EARLI project is featured there and in Renee Fleming's Music and Mind Webcast.. See our Resources page for more information.


Our Purpose

To develop effective, evidence-based in-school arts interventions to promote school readiness

Every child is unique, and the striking individuality observed in human minds is one of our society’s greatest treasures. And yet, persistent disparities in educational outcomes and in the engagement of young people in schools is a frustrating reminder that not all growing up in our community are achieving the healthy, enriching lives that is everyone’s due. Despite many years of study we still lack powerful and comprehensive models that explain why children develop so differently, and without these we will never be able to ensure that we are providing the best possibility for each child. It is likely that for some children adapting to their early education classrooms may be complicated by effects of stress in their home environments or communities, or limited English language skills, or less prior exposure to the learning afforded by well-structured preschool programs. Effective interventions that mitigate these effects as children first enter formal education may prevent learning gaps that would otherwise widen over time, by boosting language skills and socio-emotional engagement in school immediately.


Activities include a phased research plan beginning with an initial feasibility study of a vocal music intervention, with a focus on assessing language, brain, and social development outcomes. Children in transitional kindergarten (TK) classes who participate in a daily singing program will be assessed three times a year on cognitive, affective, social, academic, and music skills through standardized and experimental performance-based measures, observational measures, and teacher and parent questionnaires. The research agenda will progress toward a major, multidimensional study of the effects of several hypothesized enhancing and protective aspects of musical experiences during childhood. This research lab builds on an interdisciplinary team's deep experience in music and large-scale longitudinal child development studies, bridging fields such as cognitive science, developmental psychology, neuroscience, musicology, and education. The ultimate goal is to identify and characterize potential effects and to define their interactions with child's age, status of brain development, and genetic variation. Partners include nonprofit arts partner San Diego Children's Choir and education partner Vista Unified School District.

Research Aims

Our research agenda aims to address the following research questions:

  1. Can improved outcomes in learning, emotional well-being, and/or school engagement be demonstrated for early childhood music interventions? If so, what is the strength of the relationship, and are these effects sustained through elementary school?
  2. How do learning-related outcomes associated with arts participation vary by age, socioeconomic characteristics, and other demographic and behavioral patterns?
  3. What are the most sensitive neurocognitive tests and technologies to measure outcomes?

Outreach Aims

In addition to our research aims, we hope to

  1. Convey the results of our research to teachers, schools, and the public
  2. Work with other researchers to develop effective, standardized assessments
  3. Package effective arts interventions in a form that can be easily adopted by other schools.


The opinions expressed in materials on this website are those of the author(s) and do not represent the views of the National Endowment for the Arts Office of Research & Analysis or the National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts Endowment does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included in this material and is not responsible for any consequences of its use. This NEA Research Lab is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (Award#: 1855526-38-C-19).