Since the middle of the 20th century, there have been multiple studies on the physiological and psychological benefits of music-making. Playing instruments, producing music and singing have all been linked with positive effects on brain function, stress relief and possible pain relief, in addition to improved breathing, posture and muscle tension.
In a study conducted on 2,500 children singing in choirs and their parents across the USA, the majority of parents reported that their child’s ability or performance in English/language, arts, mathematics and academics improved overall after joining a choir.
Such studies are often followed by questions such as, ‘Doesn’t everyone sing?’ and ‘Don’t we all play music every day?’ But what do TBS students learn in choir programmes that is so unique that it can’t be learnt from YouTube videos?
Over the last decade of working with young singers, several recurring issues have come to my attention: they tend to carry tension in the jaw muscles, trying to get more power or volume by sticking the jaw forward; they often squeeze the throat which strains the voice when singing above their normal speaking pitch, and many report difficulty staying on the pitch on long held notes. Also, as they try to mimic the sound of the professionals they idolise, they put pressure on the vocal cords, which could lead to a rupture in the blood vessels, causing vocal haemorrhage.
The structured choral singing programme at TBS allows students to learn vocal techniques that they automatically call ‘classical’ or ‘operatic’ singing and therefore uncool. These include tongue flexibility exercises, yawning and multiple breathing exercises such as expanding their rib cages while breathing and feeling the difference in sound production when breathing through the mouth versus breathing through the nose. Trying out different voices such as squeaky versus deep and booming, and playing with high and low notes, pushes students outside their vocal comfort zones, so they find safety in numbers when doing these as a group.
In a post-COVID world, when students returned from virtual to on-site classes, they needed to relearn how to make social connections offline, how to hold themselves comfortably and confidently in front of their peers, make eye contact, and speak or perform with confidence. Since the introduction of our structured choral programme, student participants have demonstrated increased levels of confidence, teamwork and collaborative skills, and the appetite for participation in musical ensembles and performances has increased dramatically. From a physiological point of view, many of our choir singers have demonstrated better unconscious posture, improved breath control and the confidence to keep singing while going through vocal changes brought on by puberty.
As the appetite for participating in choral ensembles grows within TBS, they have also gained confidence to perform solo and in their overall musical abilities. Parents have reported higher levels of engagement in musical activities such as learning an instrument or wanting to form a group with their peers in order to perform together, and greater interest in taking external qualifying examinations such as ABRSM and Trinity. Currently, 175 students across Years 1 to 13 are members of the programme and attend weekly rehearsals.
Choral singing can build an appreciation of teamwork and harmony and keep you walking tall with confidence. So, whether you enjoy classical pieces or belting out Taylor Swift, find some like-minded friends and sing yourself to a healthier existence!
- Chorus America. “How Children, Adults, and Communities Benefit From Choruses.” The Kauffman Center, 2009,
- Ekholm, Ola, et al. “Associations between Daily Musicking and Health: Results from a Nationwide Survey in Denmark.” Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, vol. 44, no. 7, 2016, pp. 726–32. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/48512702.
- Launay, Jacques and Pearce, Eiluned. “Choir singing improves health, happiness – and is the perfect icebreaker.” The Conversation, theconversation.com/choir-singing-improves-health-happiness-and-is-the-perfect-icebreaker-47619.