“I don’t know if it is a spiritual, physiological or psychological phenomenon, but I believe now more than ever that singing is a universal, built-in mechanism designed to cultivate empathy and compassion.” – Eric Whitacre
One of the missions of the Windward Choral Society is the exploration of the health benefits of choral singing. Many of us have been amazed (and brought to tears) by the reactions we have seen when we bring music to the bedside. To watch an elderly woman in the advanced stages of dementia who has not spoken in months begin to mouth the words of Christmas carols…I got a lump in my throat just typing about it.
Several years ago, Time Magazine had a summary of the results of several studies about the effect of singing on the brain. A few of the highlights:
- It can be argued that music evolved as a social tool and the pleasure that comes from singing together is an evolutionary reward. (I’ve always enjoyed the idea that many species, not just us, have developed beyond the things that are “necessary for survival”; music, dancing, fun, etc.)
- Multiple studies have proven that singing relieves anxiety, lowers stress and contributes to the quality of life.
- You don’t have to be a great singer to get the benefits. One study concluded that the therapeutic benefits are still felt even when the singing is of “mediocre quality”.
The author concluded, “Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.”
Amen to that.