ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly online publication, designed for those who work with singers of all levels. A full annotated ChorTeach index is available online at acda.org/publications/chorteach. Over 160 articles are organized into seventeen categories. For submission information, to view the index, or to read the latest issue, visit acda.org/chorteach. Following is an excerpt from an article in the current Winter issue titled: Healing Our Singers, Healing Ourselves—Social and Emotional Learning in Choir by Lindsey Blackhurst
The value of choral singing is not found solely in its aesthetic or educational worth. Singing has been shown to positively impact physical health by improving the cardiovascular system, elevating mood through the production of oxytocin, and increasing the body’s immunological response. Singing with others in a school, community, or faith-based choir generates added benefits. In pursuit of a common goal—singing well together—the repeated acts of listening, creating, and experimenting bond choral musicians together, resulting in feelings of closeness, emotional connection, and inclusion.
Choral singers have described feeling supported, seen, valued, and loved by others in the ensemble.1 As singers self-identify as members of a particular group, a feeling of belonging emerges. At a fundamental level, choral singing reminds us that we are not alone. Another person hears me and responds to me. But since February and March of this year, our society has been grappling with a reality of social, or physical, distancing in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students, educators, singers, and conductors were thrust into new learning environments virtually overnight without knowing when or how we will return to normal.
Some of our students have been removed from a safe and supportive school environment to what may feel like a chaotic and less-supportive home environment. Educators similarly are faced with upturned schedules and new stressors as we strive to remain flexible during this uncertain time. This has been an isolating, lonely experience for many of us. In this period of physical distancing, when mental and emotional health have become a growing concern, the social, emotional, and spiritual solace of group singing is more important than ever.
The global health crisis caused by COVID-19 certainly has amplified the need to attend to our students’ physical and emotional needs. According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) website, “When physical distancing is deemed necessary, social and emotional connectedness is even more crucial.”2
Social and emotional learning helps people gain skills in five major competencies, as described by CASEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. SEL implements curricula and coursework to help students gain these competencies and must also be integrated by educators into their own lives, individual classrooms, and disciplines.
1 See Bailey, B. A. & Davidson, J. W. (2002). Adaptive characteristics of group singing: Perceptions from members of a choir for homeless men. Musicae Scientiae, 6(2), 221–256; Bailey, B. A., & Davidson, J. W. (2005). Effects of group singing and performance for marginalized and middle-class singers. Psychology of Music, 33(3), 269–303; Creech, A., Hallam, S., McQueen, H., & Varvarigou, M. (2013). The power of music in the lives of older adults. Research Studies in Music Education, 35(1), 87–102; Murray, M. & Lamont, A. (2012). Community music and social/health psychology: linking theoretical and practical concerns. In R. MacDonald, G. Kreutz, & L. Mitchell (Eds.) Music, health and well-being (pp. 76–86). New York, NY: Oxford; and Strayhorn, T. L. (2011). Singing in a foreign land: An exploratory study of gospel choir participation among African American undergraduates at a predominantly White institution. Journal of College Student Development, 52(2), 137–153.
2 Niemi, K. (2020). Covid-resources. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://casel.org/covid-resources/