It has been becoming more and more apparent just how much of a positive effect singing and music can have on people’s wellbeing. For example: it can bring people together, it can help people to express emotions, it can bring back happy memories, it hones cognitive and motor skills, can give people a sense of belonging and improve physical health and the list goes on…...
The benefits which singing can offer have been recognised by the medical profession as so important that the NHS is now looking to prescribe social and creative activities as treatment for many illnesses/conditions from postnatal depression to dementia (and many more). It can even be used to avoid certain illnesses/conditions too: “Social prescription is a fairly new idea,” says Dr Opher. “A doctor might give a normal prescription for a medicine, but they can also give a prescription for an activity. That could be singing, music, art, poetry, or anything – but not a medicine.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5YGsLjztqTnwZx3bCLgRfYL/why-are-some-doctors-prescribing-music-on-the-nhs, BBC3 2019)
From being a vocal coach for almost 15 years, I have witnessed so many positive impacts that singing has on the people that I have worked with, both in groups, choirs and on a one to one basis: People who have thought that they can’t sing a note and come in shaking to begin with and slowly build in confidence to actually go out and perform on stage or join bands. People who go on to start their own choirs and spread the music joy to others, people who go on to organise their own singing events for charity, feeling at first nervous but proud and also raising awareness of other subjects that are important to them, increasing over all wellbeing and positivity. Many come to the studio where some of our one to one lessons are taught and say “this is my me time, it’s a time where I get to just let loose and feel free!” I also spend a lot of time working with young people in care and have built evidence to prove that music as a whole can build resilience, confidence and autonomy if supported in the right way. I get such a buzz from watching so many people realise the positive benefits of singing for themselves and how this can then can spread it to others.
I recently received an email from one of our students who has singing lessons with one of our Bristol tutors, Matt. She said that she recently went to celebrate her mothers 97th birthday. From having lessons, she has built up sufficient confidence and stamina that she felt able to sing some old songs to her mother for extended periods. Quoted from our student: “(her mother) is now too weak to engage with us much at all, but who still loves to have us sing for her. And although she has forgotten most things, she still remembers words to some of the old songs, and delights in hearing them”. This totally warmed my heart and again proves what a wonderful effect a simple thing like singing can have. I asked our singing student if she would mind me writing about it to which she agreed and gave further context: “my mother used to sing to her father when he was in a similar state, and I recall her telling me that it was almost the only way she could engage and give him joy, and how much he clearly enjoyed it. So this is what gave me the idea”. Although this must be such a hard time for the family, I can’t help but realise how fantastic and almost beautiful that this has now been passed through generations. Something so simple, yet so effective.
I have now heard from this student that her mother has passed on, but that family members were there with her and continued singing for her right to the end, taking turns in a round the clock vigil (although not singing all night!). One of the last words she spoke was 'yes' when asked whether she would like them to continue singing.
As soon as I received the email, I wanted to spread the word as this may help others in a similar situation. And after confirming with our student, she shared the same feelings as me. Thank you so much to our student for sharing this story with us.
If anybody else has any other stories of the positive effects of singing, please let us know! If you have any questions regarding any of the above, please do get in touch.
Get singing/music making people! It doesn’t matter where or how. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re great at it….setting goals and honing skills are great too but it can be about so much more than that! :0)