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Pandemic and Group Music Experiences

In the Netflix documentary series Coronavirus Explained, Daniel Levitin -a neuroscientist- discusses the body’s positive reaction to group singing. He states that the body releases oxytocin, helping the singers feel bonded to one another, as well as other stress reducing hormones. Previous studies have confirmed this, with some providing evidence that group singing “increased energy levels, improved breathing, improved mood, [increased] self-esteem and [increased] group cohesion” (Reagon et al., 2016). These results suggest that group singing serves a therapeutic purpose in improving the quality of life, both in times of stress and otherwise.


Humans, whether they have a tendency for introversion or extroversion, are innately social creatures. Group music making has existed throughout history as a means of socially connecting with one another; according to one study, singing “may be a more expressive medium than speech and […] may encourage social cohesion and solidarity” (Reagon et al., 2016). Moments of social cohesion are limited due to the current COVID-19 pandemic as we are forced into isolation for the wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones. With that, however, comes the isolation from groups such as family, friends, and co-workers. This distance from our social support creates stress that can adversely affect our emotional and physical wellbeing, potentially creating long-lasting effects that will continue beyond the pandemic.


Group singing has been used in similar instances of forced isolation to help us cope; for example, some research studies have noted the “enhanced quality of life” provided by group singing programs within a chronic illness community (Irons et al., 2019). Other studies touted similar results regarding elderly populations, with participants reporting an increase in satisfaction in life in addition to the physiological benefits of exercising facial, vocal, and diaphragmatic muscles (Entezari et al., 2019).


In our current global state, these benefits are most appreciated due to the isolation. Not only do group music making experiences provide an opportunity for socialization, but they also are being as a concurrent means of recovery. Research suggests that “recovery process occur through the promotion of a meaningful life with meaningful activities”; moments of rare music making (such as playing the Titanic theme song with neighbours across the courtyard) create meaningful, shared experiences that would not occur otherwise (Bibb & McFerran, 2018).

In our current global state, these benefits are most appreciated due to the isolation. Not only do group music making experiences provide an opportunity for socialization, but they also are being as a concurrent means of recovery. Research suggests that “recovery process occur through the promotion of a meaningful life with meaningful activities”; moments of rare music making (such as playing the Titanic theme song with neighbours across the courtyard) create meaningful, shared experiences that would not occur otherwise (Bibb & McFerran, 2018).


Group music experiences are providing the sense of unity with one another in a time where prolonged isolation is worrisome. We are able to cope through our “[shared] feelings” and feeling comforted by one another as we join together in music making (Bibb & McFerran, 2018). It is no wonder then that there are examples across the world of neighbours opening their windows and joining one another in music making; in a time where we can’t physically come together, what better way than by joining our voices in support of one another?


We at The House of Music Therapy hope you enjoyed these snippets of happiness from around the globe. If you would like to know more about how group music engagement can benefit others, please see the resources listed below or ask your friendly neighborhood music therapist!


Resources:

Bibb, J., & McFerran, K.S. (2018). Musical recovery: The role of group singing in regaining healthy relationships with music to promote mental health recovery. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 27 (3), 235-251.

Cascione, M. (Producer). (2020). Coronavirus Explained, Season One, Episode 3: How to Cope. Retrieved from Netflix

Entezari, M., Zakizadeh, M., Yazdani, J., & Taraghi, Z. (2019). The effect of group singing on the happiness of older people. Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences, 6 (2), 78-83.

Irons, J.Y., Kuipers, P., Wan, A., & Stewart, D.E. (2019). Group singing has multiple benefits in the context of chronic pain: An exploratory pilot study. Pain Management Nursing, 21, 259-264.

Reagan, C., Gale, N., Enright, S., Mann, M., & Van Deursen, R. (2016). A mixed-method systematic review to investigate the effect of group singing on health-related quality of life. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 27, 1-11.

 

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