Resilience, or the ability to overcome adversity, is one of the qualities that young people need to develop today, more than ever, as they face significant disruptions in their studies, families and professional lives with Covid.
The good news is that it is not an innate quality, but a skill that can be acquired through experience and our interactions with others. Playing music in a band, participating in an orchestra or choir, for example, is a good situation to develop these skills.
Read more: Children’s orchestras, a way to democratize musical practice?
In a study of 14- to 25-year-olds participating in orchestras in Tasmania, we were interested in the skills these experiences allow them to develop beyond learning an instrument and singing. .
For this project, we collected feedback from musicians, teachers, and conductors in a closed Facebook group, and then conducted eight additional interviews that highlighted the teamwork, empathy, and courage fostered by these group practices as components of sustainability.
Listen to each other
To play music together, you have to listen to each other, understand what’s going on around you, and be willing to change your interpretation depending on the band’s performance. You must also be able to appreciate the contributions of others outside of the judgment you give to your own work.
As the conductor David explained, over time the players realized that they are responsible not only to the conductor, but to each other. Participating in a musical ensemble therefore allows you to learn all the attitudes and techniques necessary for group work.
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Musicians must also be able to share their thoughts and feelings with other participants. Making music in a choir or orchestra is a shared creative experience that involves the whole body. This is where empathy comes into play. Like teamwork, it can be cumulative, growing over rehearsals and performances, with students and teachers supporting each other.
“I have to accept that I’m not always going to be the focus of a song,” notes Tom, while Simon tells us he realizes he’s not alone in running his chords over and over again.
It is important for young people to develop a certain mindset conducive to learning, to understand that effort makes them stronger and that reading is a long-term commitment. This is where jealousy comes from, which allows you to pursue a goal and stick to it even when the going gets tough.
Learning an instrument requires daily practice and it can sometimes take months to get up to speed and play a piece well. Commitment is a key element of music education, as emphasized by Lawrence, who participated in a musical at her school: “Several times during the year I ‘wanted to quit.’ […] but it was something I was committed to, and even though I felt I couldn’t do it, I kept working as hard as I could.”
Tori, the choir director, notes that concerts or plays are learning to deal with the unexpected, and that takes a kind of courage.
“There’s a certain security in being in a band, but going on stage is always like a leap into the unknown. You can rely on each other after training, but that doesn’t stop the unexpected from happening. […]. Realizing that a performance wasn’t good is a very important life skill, but no matter what happens to yourself, we’ll do it again. »
Characteristics of music
Compared to other group activities in sports or in the classroom, does music have a special ability to promote persistence? Young people can learn teamwork very well through games or participating in sports competitions.
As for music, it has to be seen to cause simultaneous activity in different parts of the brain. Listening to music you like activates the reward circuit. Dopamine and serotonin are released, resulting in a state of well-being and motivation to continue listening to music.
Learning a musical instrument also strengthens connections in the brain, linking the auditory cortex to parts of the brain involved in complex information processing. This connection has been shown to improve memory, motor function and learning in other areas.
Playing music with others also affects levels of the binding hormone oxytocin, while lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosting immune function.
For young people, music can provide a valuable respite from education and everyday life and help them manage and express their emotions.
* names have been changed.