Choirs + Singing

TEDx Talk: How singing together changes the brain – Tania de Jong AM
With One Voice program evaluation – Swinburne University

The neuroscience of singing is proven to make us happier, healthier, smarter and more creative. Around the world, research is mounting that demonstrates the benefits of community singing. One such study by the UK’s esteemed University of Oxford, The ice-breaker effect: singing mediates fast social bonding, is of particularly interest. Here are some highlights:

  1. “our results indicate that compared with individuals participating in craft or creative writing classes, singers experience a greater increase in both self-reported closeness to their group and positive affect”
  2. “the distinguishing feature of singing was that it bonded groups more quickly than the other activities”
  3. “building close personal ties with individuals relies more on frequently repeated one-on-one (or small group) interactions in which individuals have the opportunity to talk and observe each other at close quarters to build up an idea of a potential social partner’s trustworthiness and usefulness as a coalition partner. We argue that, in the singing classes, shared musical activity initially facilitated group bonding by bypassing the need to get to know everyone in the class individually, creating general feelings of positivity towards everyone present. Further closeness in the singing classes may have arisen as new relationships were built with individual classmates during the tea-break conversations or between classes”
  4. “the non-singing classes provided more opportunity than the singing classes for talking to each other, but lacked a powerful means of bonding a whole class simultaneously”
  5. “although protracted interaction is likely to be necessary in order for intimate personal relationships to develop within a group, singing may be able to kick start this process in humans: singing breaks the ice so that individuals feel closer to the group as a whole even if they do not yet know anything about the individual members”

Here are some further articles and resources:

Canterbury Christ Church University- Sidney de Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health Research Project Outcomes:

Case study
The Office of the Protective Commissioner and the Office of the Public Guardian is staffed by 330 people who look after the financial and personal affairs of people who are unable to make decisions on their own behalf. Both organisations face significant challenges including;

  • Restructures in both
  • Increasing demand for service
  • Moving offices across the whole organisation
  • Consequent loss of skilled staff
  • Engagement of new staff
  • Complex work often involving families in conflict

At the end of 2007 the Commissioner invited staff to form a festive season choir and 20 staff formed the inaugural choir including people with trained voices, others who had sung in the school choir and people who believed they were tone deaf! With the support of a professional singing teacher the choir first sang for and end-of-year afternoon tea and the performance was a resounding success. The choir decided that they wanted to continue to sing as a group and later we extended membership to all business centres of Attorney Generals Department located atParramatta. While not designed to be a performance choir they will have performed a further four times by the holiday break – all within the broader Department.

“From my perspective, the choir has provided an invaluable platform for cross and intra-organisational understanding, is a great team building activity and has also been beneficial to singers with all levels of experience. People who previously communicated via e-mail have met each other on a different playing field and the positive effect has translated back to their daily work.

Staff who have not joined the choir remain great supporters and frequently ask members about the choir and when we are performing next. It has become a marker point in the week for all members. It takes only an hour, but that hour is a respite from our demanding and stressful jobs when we immerse ourselves in an activity that is different, energising, a team endeavour, mentally stimulating and just downright fun.” Imelda Dodds, Protective Commissioner and Public Guardian

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