We chose music...
Music, English playwright, William Congreve observed, “has charms to soothe a
Meanwhile cellist, Yo-Yo Ma once commented, “Healing? I think that is what music
is all about. Don’t you?”
The Power of Music (Hanson, 2004)
Music has two advantages. Firstly, music can create community. Secondly, music
has therapeutic value. Let us look at it in more detail.
Music can create community:
- Music has great opportunities to promote general health and mental
well-being (USA for Africa, 2006; VicHealth, 2005b; Williams, McCreanor, &
Barnes, 2003). We know that social connection is important for health. Music
provides an opportunity for many voices to be heard, not just a few, so that it
is good for everyone’s mental health.
- Music can reach people by way of expression of the values and concerns that
are communicated powerfully across the world. The result is the sense of
meaning, which is a crucial element in positive mental health (VicHealth,
- The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) claims, “Have you ever
listened to a song that rocked your world, read a book that changed you forever,
seen a play or a film that made you walk out into a different world than the one
you left behind just hours before? Most of us have. That’s why VicHealth’s
investment in the arts is so powerful.
- Not only does it work for the participants, transforming lives in ways that
can only be beneficial to health, but it can also, when done well, affect the
audience: potentially altering perceptions; increasing understanding and respect
for other views; and, in the process, improving a community’s health” (VicHealth,
Benefits of Music:
“...Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life,
bringing peace, abolishing strife...”
- Participants in community activities have better health outcomes than
non-participants; especially those participants in creative activity who can
develop supportive social networks, stronger communities, better health and
- For young people, involvement in creative activity can improve academic
achievement, school retention rates, self-esteem and reduced drug and alcohol
consumption and juvenile offending (VicHealth, 2005a).
- Community-based arts activity makes considerable contribution to community
health (VicHealth, 2003). The results from the VicHealth’s Community Arts
Participation Scheme showed positive achievements in health outcomes such as
enhanced social connectedness, valuing diversity and freedom from discrimination
and violence, and economic participation and meaningful engagement (Williams,
McCreanor, & Barnes, 2003).
- “Community Singing Across Victoria” in Australia and “Singing with
Conviction” in New Zealand are committed to furthering and disseminating the
evidence of the link between music and health (Arts Access Aotearoa, 2005;
- Music is a universal language across all cultural groups.
- The power of music is its ability to bring diverse people together
regardless of disability, ethnicity, age, gender, religion and political beliefs
around a common interest and sense of purpose.
- Music naturally reverberates, permeates, and goes through boundaries and
walls. It calls to others, attracts, gathers, connects people together. It
creates community. That is called, “ripple effect” (Pavlicevic & Ansdell, 2004).
- Music is also culturally-appropriate, because music is the heart of the
culture (VicHealth, 2004a).
Music has the power of community development and so is the power of mental
health promotion. Therefore, music is an excellent tool to promote mental
well-being of multicultural societies.
Music has more than entertainment value:
- Melding of music and medicine that have been conjoined since the Greek god
Zeus appointed his son Apollo as god of both. Apollo was a gifted musician and
taught humans the art of healing and bestowed the gift of prophecy on those
mortals he loved (Sammon, 1997). Music has therapeutic value on both individuals
and communities, especially in its creative component (Hanson, 2004; Turry,
2005). That is why, physicians have approached music as therapy for generations.
- Music is the leading arts therapy discipline, because music can heal
individuals and communities (Hanson, 2004). Music, an aural stimulant, can evoke
psycho-physiological response (Kneafsey, 1997). Music can reduce agitation and
situational anxiety. Music can create significant mood changes. Music can
facilitate communication and mobility. Music unlocks both body and soul. Music
creates a healing environment that encourages meaningful emotional expression,
free from confines of language and words. Music creates an atmosphere of beauty,
peace, and reverence for all participants in the therapeutic settings
(Young-Mason, 2002). Its goal as therapy is the reduction of stress, pain,
anxiety and isolation. Music can improve the wellbeing of people. Music is
sometimes better than any medicine for those purposes. Stige (1998), the
prominent author from the music therapy world, summarised as music is a social
thing, it is interaction, communication and community (Stige, 1998). The most
recent progress in the music therapy is “community music therapy”, which extends
the practice of music therapists well beyond the confines of therapy rooms. The
community music therapy seems to be very promising for mental health promotion.
- Music is also used in workplaces to promote mental well-being and to improve
productivity. Big corporations such as the oil giant BP and leading law firm
Lovells pay for special singing workshops for their staff (Hanson, 2004). So,
music has the power of healing and the power of community development.
The Power of Healing:
- “It makes sense. If you’re part of a singing group you’re connecting with
other people, you feel a sense of achievement and most importantly, you’re
having fun. Every neighbourhood should have a singing group”
Rob Moodie, VicHealth Chief Executive Officer and singer (VicHealth, 2004b)
- A United Kingdom study of members of a university college choral society
found that participants had benefited socially and emotionally by being involved
in the choir. A second study found six dimensions of benefit associated with
singing such as better wellbeing and relaxation, improved breathing and posture,
social, spiritual and emotional benefits and boosts to both the heart and the
immune system (VicHealth, 2004b).
- In summary, music has the power of healing, the power of community
development and the power of mental health promotion. Therefore, we chose music
to promote mental health.