I've been a singer as long as I can remember. As a kid, I used to sing solos at church but was too scared to speak to strangers who complimented me on my voice. Ahh introversion! But as I grew, my love for music grew with me. From middle school on, I was pretty solidly a "choir kid." There's something deeply soul-filling and rich about joining my voice with others that's hard to describe.
Simply put: singing together connects me with others in a way that nothing else can. And as it turns out, the data bear out this belief.
I’m guessing I’m, quite literally, preaching to the choir here, as choral singing is still the most popular way to participate in performing arts -- an estimated 42.6 million Americans regularly sing in choruses. With at least 41,000 K-12 school choruses in the U.S., it’s likely that children and youth you work with also sing. In an age when we value STEM education and test scores, it’s easy to forget the benefits of singing -- especially singing together.
In recent years, there’s been considerably more research on understanding the benefits of singing in choirs. Some of those benefits include:
- Regulating heart rate. Yes, that’s right, researchers found that choral singers’ hearts would beat in unison in relation to their breathing.
- Reducing stress and depression. Numerous studies have cited mental health benefits of singing.
- Improving feelings of social well-being. Like with sports teams, being a part of a group of singers fosters experiences of social connection.
- Deepening feelings of togetherness. Here’s that soul-filling richness again. Choral singers report enjoying greater feelings of togetherness than people participating in other types of social activities.
Even without knowing all these cool research factoids, I know in my soul that singing has immense value for my life. Now, after 10 years singing with the National Lutheran Choir here in the Twin Cities, singing in a choir has become such an integral part of who I am that I can’t imagine my life without it. I am simply a better version of myself when I’m regularly singing with others.
And singing is still teaching me lessons about myself, and the other people singing with me. Singing together can be an entry point into the hard stuff. Sometimes producing simple melodies or rich harmonies together brings more understanding than mere words could ever hope to, opening a deep, almost primal line of communication.
So when we talk about how to connect with youth, how to educate them, how to increase their empathy and understanding, maybe we should consider starting with song. Joining our voices to connect, understand, and feel the richness of life together.
And if nothing else, it sure would be a whole lot of fun.
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