Cat Stevens was right when he said, “If you want to sing out, sing out…” Research has shown that listening to music and singing can have both physical and neurological benefits, so go ahead and turn up the volume and sing your heart out when Spandau Ballet’s “True” comes on the radio.
Beyond the scientific studies there are numerous, everyday life examples of music’s therapeutic advantages.’
There’s an interesting CNN article out this week about a group of singers in London that have formed a group called Sing for Joy. It’s a community choir for people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and others recovering from conditions including stroke or cancer.
The choir was formed by Nina Temple in 2003, already having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years earlier. Trying to cope with her chronic condition, Temple, and a fellow Parkinson’s sufferer, decided to form a choir.
“I was thinking of all the things which I wished I’d done with my life and I wouldn’t be able to do. And then I started thinking about all the things that I still actually could do and singing was one of those,” Temple told CNN.
The duo then invited others to join them and advertised for a singing teacher.
With the help of funding from the Parkinson’s Disease Society, the resulting ensemble Sing for Joy was up and running, rehearsing weekly and eventually performing in public.
The group now consists of around two-dozen singers and is led by acclaimed jazz performer Carol Grimes. Their eclectic repertoire ranges from Cole Porter to ethnic punk.
Doctor Wendy Magee, International Fellow in Music Therapy at London’s Institute of Neuropalliative Rehabilitation, describes music as a “mega-vitamin for the brain,” capable of influencing and improving motor function, communication and even cognition.
“When neural pathways are damaged for one particular function such as language, musical neural pathways are actually much more complex and much more widespread within the brain,” Magee told CNN. “Music seems to find re-routed paths and that is why it is such a useful tool in terms of helping people with different kinds of brain damage because it can help to find new pathways in terms of brain functioning.”
Regardless of your musical taste, no denying the powerful effect music has on our mood and overall emotional state; those “Grey’s Anatomy” montages set to music from The Fray should be scientific proof enough of music’s ability to shake our neurological core.
Dr. Lauren Stewart, director of a recently established course in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths University of London told CNN:
“Recent advances in neuroscience and brain imaging technology are now radically transforming conventional music therapy into a more rigorous and research-based clinical practice.”
While the science behind music therapy continues to evolve, the story of Sing for Joy is all the evidence you need to understand the true healing power of music.
Sing for Joy perform at London’s TUC Congress Centre on Saturday, June 6.