Center for
Lifelong Music Making
A Song a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

 

Better health is just a breath away…when you sing!  Researchers are studying the effects of singing and music making on health and well-being, and finding numerous benefits.  The simple act of singing creates a powerful connection between body, mind and spirit that can heal, energize and deepen lives.  “Singing, even if you can’t do it well, is therapeutic on many levels.  It transforms the body into a musical instrument, and, if done with many others, creates something far greater than the sum of individual parts” (Star Tribune editorial, “Singing Drowns out ‘War on Christmas,’” December 25, 2005). 

 

Singing appears to help fight off disease by raising the level of immunoglobulin A, an immune system protein (study of an adult choir reported in Music Perception, 18 [1], 2000).  Singing and playing instruments increases mood, socialization, lung capacity and mental stimulation (study of music classes for older adults by Oasis www.oasisnet.org).  In Minneapolis Public Schools, classroom teachers have been studying the effects of daily singing on students’ academic achievement (Professional Pay course Want to Teach Reading and Math? Try Singing!).  Many of these teachers have observed an increase in well-being: both students and teachers are happier and more movtivated, enlivened and focused.  They report that they are building cooperative classroom communities.  Meanwhile, there has been dramatic improvement in some of the reading and math achievement studies. 

So, you say, “O.K., I believe singing is a good idea, but I didn’t get the music gene, and you sure don’t want to hear me sing.” Well, contrary to common lore, those who sing well were not born with a special gift.  Music is a natural human intelligence developed through practice.  Singing, like swimming, riding a bike or reading, is a learned behavior.  Babies begin babbling musically before they speak.  Every person can learn to sing in tune (barring a disability).  Some individuals are exceptional at it, but basic singing achievement is no different than other kinds of achievement. 

 

So, how do you improve? A song a day! Exercise your vocal cords in the shower—a marvelous, moist sound chamber.  Sing along with the radio on your way to work.  Hum while walking the dog after dinner.  Croon your child to sleep with a lullaby.  There are software programs that can help you learn to match pitch, and karaoke machines to give you plenty of fun practice.  When you get braver, there are singing lessons, and groups to join or start with friends.

And, what should you be singing? Anything that makes you happy!  For children, folk songs are the most nourishing “food group” because they are made up of patterns of sound that are easy to sing and remember.  Kids love to sing them over and over and over…on the bus, in the bathtub, in bed.  Just think of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, This Old Man, Eensy, Weensy Spider, Oh When the Saints Go Marching In, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Hush Little Baby.  And there are many beautifully illustrated folk song books for children that you can sing/read together.

 

Finally, what happens when we sing with others? Something is created that is greater than each individual.  There is a dramatic increase in vitality, human connection, and beauty.  Hard to quantify, but those who do it know what it is.  And it feels…oh, so wonderful!

 

Don’t be surprised in the near future at your yearly physical exam if your doctor asks, “Are you eating well? Getting regular exercise? Singing?” And you laughingly respond, “Oh yes! A song a day keeps the doctor away!”