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Why singing in a choir makes you smart

How’s that for a flagrantly sensationalist headline? I guess it’s the kind of headline that makes choristers all over the world nod their heads in agreement and say to themselves: “of course! I knew it all along!” Yes, there has been quite a few studies done about how music can help develop children’s brains and we’ve all heard about the now debunked myth that listening to Mozart while pregnant can make your kid smarter, but I’m particularly interested in the way that regular choir singing can improve your everyday life, both work and personal. Here are some of the ways you benefit from stretching those vocal chords in the presence of other vocally-inclined individuals.

Team work

The most obvious benefit is that it teaches us to work together as a team. We all have to work together in a choir. There is no competition. There is no ‘us and them’, only ‘us’. If the ensemble is out, the whole performance sounds bad, not just, for instance, the altos.

We also have to be very aware of ourselves in relation to everyone around us. We have to listen carefully to what’s coming out of our mouths and match it to what’s coming out of others’.  We’re constantly adapting, subtly changing our dynamics and timbre, hold ourselves back at certain paths to let the others stand out a bit when the music calls for it. We have to make sure we blend, getting our sound just right so that we create an overall sound that’s better than the sum of our individual voices. We make our individual voices disappear so that our combined voice shine.

You don’t have to be a genius to know how teamwork can benefit every aspect of your life!

Mastery

There’s nothing like practice to hone your skills. Weekly choir rehearsals are great for keeping your vocal chords ship-shape and the repetition of the pieces helps you master phrases that at first seemed really difficult but after a while flow easily. This is the same with anything you want to get good at in your life. Put in the hours constructively and you’ll reap the benefits.

Choir singing is also a highly focused exercise. You need to be concentrating for long periods and cannot let your attention waver for even a second, or you may find yourself at the receiving end of the conductor’s glare having missed an important cue! In this age of ADHD and 140 character attention spans, an extended ability to focus can give you the edge.

Responsibility

Choir is commitment. You can’t just decide on the night, “nah, I don’t feel like it” and stay home with a bag of Oreos and a tub of ice-cream. No, you drag yourself to rehearsals and regularly skip personal events because you’re a member of something bigger than yourself and you know you can’t let your team down. You’d never live it down anyway. We all appreciate people who take responsibility for their work, so this one’s a no-brainer.

It just feels great!

Making music is one of the most satisfying endeavours humans can do. Music has been a part of our social fabric ever since the first rocks were clinked together in a cave and reverberated around our cavepeople’s heads. Singing in a choir and bringing a piece to life in real-time is immensely rewarding, which is probably a combination of the adrenaline, the endorphins, and the sense of camaraderie.

Whatever it is, I want more!

 

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