The October issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Sound Teaching: Trauma-Informed Pedagogy in Choir” by William Sauerland. You can read it in its entirety at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the introduction.
Involvement in a music ensemble has been found to be beneficial for social, mental, emotional, spiritual, and neurobiological health; however, the scenarios above present snapshots of how trauma or post-traumatic stress can be incited during a choral rehearsal.
Though trauma might be commonly misunderstood as the suffering of only individuals who have endured severe emotional or physical abuse, mental health experts indicate trauma is more frequent and widespread.(1) An estimated 66-85% of people experience exposure to a traumatic event by college-age.(2) Described as “America’s hidden health crisis,”(3) trauma is a violation of “our beliefs that the world is a safe place.”(4) Considering the impact of trauma in the well-being of choral singers seems necessary and pertinent.
Discussions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have heightened awareness of trauma in our national consciousness. Trauma can be caused by the death of a loved one, a motor vehicle accident, loneliness, body shaming, or any adverse experience that causes a sense of danger or distress. Widespread adversities, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, race relations, and ongoing political divisions in the United States could all be sources of trauma. Choir directors might also be aware that stressors caused by social media, school bullying, and violence in schools can instigate a traumatic response in students. The introductory scenarios illustrate actions and behaviors that, in any social environment, have the potential to trigger trauma. The purpose of this article is to consider trauma-informed pedagogy (TIP) for choral teaching, not only as a framework for teaching singers with a history of trauma, but for the safety and well-being of all choral singers.
Even the most compassionate teachers may not be knowledgeable in how to manage and lessen the stressors singers bring to the choral classroom. Choir directors can have an awareness of the impact of trauma on choral singers and be equipped with strategies to mitigate trauma triggers and nurture more compassionate choirs. For readers who have suffered from an adverse experience, please note that this article might itself incite a traumatic response.
1 – Christopher Menschner and Alexandra Maul, Key Ingredients for Successful Trauma-Informed Care Implementation (Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., 2016): 2.
2 – Shannon Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide.” Education Northwest (2017): 5.
3 – M. Shelley Thomas, Shantel Crosby, and Judi Vanderhaar, “Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools Across Two Decades: An Interdisciplinary Review of Research.” Review of Research in Education 43, no. 1 (2019): 424.
4 – Vivian Barnett Brown, Maxine Harris, and Roger Fallot, “Moving Toward Trauma-Informed Practice in Addiction Treatment: A Collaborative Model of Agency Assessment.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 45, No. 5 (2013): 387.