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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Forbes

How singers can help address our crisis of connection

Cover photo by Colin Michael on Unsplash


In today's fast-paced, technology-driven world, we are facing a global crisis of social connection. Loneliness and social isolation have become widespread issues, affecting mental and physical health on a massive scale. But what if one solution to this problem lies in the power of music and, more specifically, in the leadership of singers? Singers possess unique qualities that make them ideal candidates for fostering social connections and a sense of belonging within our communities.


The need to belong: Why connection matters

As human beings, we have an innate need to belong. When we feel connected to others and part of something bigger than ourselves, we experience a sense of meaning and purpose. Positive psychology tells us that cultivating a sense of belonging is crucial for our overall well-being. In contrast, a lack of social connection can have devastating effects on our mental and physical health, comparable to the risks associated with smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor diet.


Singing: The ultimate ice breaker

Music and singing have long been recognized as powerful tools for promoting social bonding and well-being. Group singing, in particular, has been shown to create social connections faster than other group activities, a phenomenon known as the "ice breaker effect." By engaging in singing together, people develop "singing-caring relations" that deepen social connections and foster a sense of inclusion and belonging.


Embodying leadership

Singers possess unique leadership qualities that make them well-suited for building social connections through community singing groups. Their embodied, aesthetic practice enables them to communicate authentically and relate to others in a genuine, caring manner. Singers naturally embody virtuous behaviors such as generosity, compassion, gratitude, and trust, which are the foundation of positive relational energy and the cultivation of belonging.


Recognizing singers as community leaders

As we navigate the challenges of social disconnection in the modern world, it is time to recognize the untapped potential of singers as community leaders. By incorporating community singing work into their career portfolios, singers can play a vital role in addressing the global crisis of social connection. However, this shift will require support in the form of appropriate remuneration, training, and recognition of the value of this work.


The global crisis of social connection demands innovative solutions, and singers are uniquely positioned to lead the way. By harnessing their embodied leadership skills and natural inclination to foster belonging, singers create vibrant, inclusive communities where people feel connected and supported. It is time for us to recognize and support the role of singers as positively energizing community leaders, and to invest in the power of music and singing to heal our social fabric, one voice at a time.


References


Allen, K. A. (2021). The psychology of belonging. Routledge.


Camlin, D. A., Daffern, H., & Zeserson, K. (2020). Group singing as a resource for the development of a healthy public: A study of adult group singing. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 7(1), 1-15.


Cameron, K. C. (2021). Positively energizing leadership: Virtuous actions and relationships that create high performance (1st ed.). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


Cassidy Parker, E., & Hutton, J. C. (2023). Singing and caring. In K. S. Hendricks (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Care in Music Education (pp. 268–279). Oxford University Press.


Forbes, M., & Bartlett, I. (2020a). 'This circle of joy': Meaningful musicians' work and the benefits of facilitating singing groups. Music Education Research, 22(5), 555-568.


Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLOS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316.


Ladkin, D., & Taylor, S. S. (2010). Enacting the 'true self': Towards a theory of embodied authentic leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(1), 64-74.


Pearce, E., Launay, J., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2015). The ice-breaker effect: Singing mediates fast social bonding. Royal Society Open Science, 2(10), 150221.


Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.


Way, N., Ali, A., Gilligan, C., & Noguera, P. (Eds.). (2018). The crisis of connection: Roots, consequences, and solutions. NYU Press.



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