The latest issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “The Biochemical Power of Choral Singing” by Nicholas Sienkiewicz. You can read it in its entirety online at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion of this article’s introduction.
In a time where the state of the arts is ever more fragile, it is important to be reminded of the profound benefits of choral singing. It is well understood that music, in general, contributes to our emotional, physiological, and spiritual well-being. But what about choral music specifically? What if I told you that choral music could have an impact on our biochemistry, affecting areas including stress, social bonding, and our immune response? In the midst of a global health crisis where the fate of near-future singing is uncertain, discussing the biochemical benefits of choral singing is an essential concept.
Science has firmly established that music has profound effects on the mind and body. Moderate, early musical training has been shown to decrease age-related auditory declines, even if the training is discontinued. A study done by Toyoshima et al., found that playing the piano significantly reduced cortisol stress levels and anxiety. The effect of playing the piano was more profound than other activities, including calligraphy and clay molding. Even just listening to music has been shown to increase dopamine levels, make you consume less calories, and reduce pain. And those are just naming a few!
In a choral rehearsal, although we may not consciously think about it, physical and mental health are often emphasized. Warm-ups involving motion and stretching are common practice and allow our bodies to feel alive and rejuvenated. Intimate connection to the music gives choristers a means of healthy emotional output, allowing them to be vulnerable in a safe space, reaping positive benefits for the collective mental health. But what about what’s actually happening inside our bodies? Could the practice and performance of choral music really be modulating our biochemistry, affecting things like hormone, protein, and neurotransmitter levels? What if we could argue that choral music not only contributes to the wide range of musical, artistic, mental, and physical health benefits, but also benefits our immune system and modulates our brain chemistry?
Read the rest of this article (and more!) in the October 2020 issue of Choral Journal.