Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

Article Response: Social and Mental Health Benefits of Choral Singing

 

This post is inspired by an article review assignment for my Psychology of Music class. Thoughts are my own and not of my institution.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Starting Monday post, I have been doing quite a bit of reading for all of my classes. Reading research articles has become a regular activity the last few weeks, and while I never thought I would have them as my primary source of reading enjoyment, they are starting to help me form ideas for my own research or just general wonderment and interest in new topics. The citation below is from an article in the Psychology of Music journal, and it sparked some questions on the topic of social interaction and enjoyment in choral singing.

Dingle, G. A., Brander, C., Ballantyne, J., & Baker, F. A. (2012). ‘To be heard’: The social and mental health benefits of choir singing for disadvantaged adults. Psychology of Music, 41(4), 405-421.

In short, the study observes participants in a choral ensemble designed for adults with mental illness to see if participation had a positive effect on their mood and outlook. The authors conducted interviews over the course of a year, one at the beginning of the experience, one after their first performance, and one at the end of the season, to see how their moods were affected, and to measure their social engagement in the activity. What they found is that choral singing did in fact give them a sense of belonging, created friendships, and fostered feelings of self-confidence, relaxation, and purpose. 

After reading the article I began reflecting on my own choral journey, as I came to sing in choir later in my high school career, mostly because literally all of my friends were in the class. I had been in the orchestra since 3rd grade, and at that time was still very involved and dedicated to that program. I knew I had some singing ability in that I could harmonize and hold my part, so I figured I would try it out and at least get to see my friends every day. Flash forward to college, where I continued my study in both choir and orchestra. I found little enjoyment in attending orchestra rehearsals, as I never felt any connection to fellow musicians. I showed up for rehearsal, played, and then left. The social element was missing. Meanwhile, in choir, which I was pursuing just as a hobby, became my identity. All of my friends came from the choir, and I was beginning to fall in love with choral music and the choral art. This makes me wonder if I had experienced the same kind of social fulfillment in my orchestral ensemble, would that have been my career path instead? 

Next, the article made me reflect on my years in the classroom. How many students struggle with mental illness found solace in the choir room? It makes me wonder if students identified with mental illness or social disorders should be encouraged to participate in a music classroom to see if it helps them. As teachers, we never really know the impact we have on students, and I’m sure the number of students who struggle daily with social interaction or coping with depression are sometimes greater than we know. 

I encourage you to take a look at the article, even if reading research isn’t quite your thing. Their findings are insightful and could help ensemble directors approach their teaching and the way they foster community. 

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on social interaction in ensemble participation!  Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nics_events/

 

About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

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