Music has many facets, genres and styles; from rock and pop, to classical music, jazz, music from different cultures, fusions and cross-overs. It forms a part of almost every aspect of our lives and influences our mood, spirit, and sense of belonging. It can revive memories in those with dementia, bring back feelings from our past, soothe those with serious illness, aid coordination in those with physical illnesses and it can bring together groups of people in a unified and positive way.
It is found in all human cultures around the world. The oldest bone flute is 40,000 years old, so music has been around at least this long. This, and the fact that music often occurs in social settings, from religious rituals to football games, suggests that music might be an evolved behaviour for creating community cohesion. One of the easiest ways to get involved with music is singing, something that literally everyone can do – whether you think you can or not!
The Royal Society has recently published research with the abstract – It has been proposed that singing evolved to facilitate social cohesion. However, it remains unclear whether bonding arises out of properties intrinsic to singing or whether any social engagement can have a similar effect. The ice-breaker effect: singing mediates fast social bonding – Eiluned Pearce, Jacques Launay, Robin I. M. Dunbar. Published 28 October 2015.
This thorough research, using large samples and some deep statistical analysis goes on to conclude that singing does indeed forge social bonds, and does so more quickly than other methods of social interaction. It also says that community singing is extremely effective in bonding large social groups and is an ideal behaviour for improving broader social networks; something that is increasingly important in our evermore alienating world where interactions are often remote through social media.
Singing in itself also has many positive mental health benefits; releasing endorphins and reducing cortisol thus reducing our stress and anxiety, whilst simultaneously exercising our brain to improve cognitive development and memory. Generally speaking, singing makes us feel happier, and the more we actively participate the better the benefits.
At some point in the past two weeks the whole school has sung together in singing practice for our chapel services. Those who find it comfortable to sing and those who don’t have all given it a go and put in some effort. What we are aiming for is a positive community of young people, led by a positive community of staff, who are not afraid to give something a go and trust that each other will do the same so that nobody is left as a lone voice.
When coming together as a group, a community that supports and helps each other through the positive medium of singing we bond, build self-esteem, reduce our stress levels and feel part of something that is greater than ourselves. In our turbulent world, in such turbulent and troubling times, this sense of community – standing together in a positive, supportive and bonded global community in school is something that we must build and treasure for the good of our children and our society as a whole. It’s what a broad education beyond the curriculum is all about.
Next term we will run our community choir –in the school during lunchtimes, and for parents/staff/friends and anyone associated with the school on a Thursday evening. My message to you all is to get involved in order that you can benefit from the physical and mental benefits that singing as part of our school community can bring.
Director of Music