Singing Belongs to Everyone
At its most elementary, singing brings joy to people. It grounds us, defines us and connects us.
Which comes as no surprise, because singing has been a feature of human society for as long as recorded time. It has taken the form of individual and group expression in every culture in the activities of daily life.
Singing has also scientifically been proven to heal – physically, mentally and emotionally.
The values and practices of singing vary across the world and these priorities shape singing expression within every single culture.
Curiously, Western culture has long been dominated by the powerful ‘myth of can’t’
The Myth of Can’t
Many people believe that singing is a skill/gift with which you are either born or not. It is very common to hear someone say “I can’t sing”.
Often, this self-belief takes root in childhood when someone important communicated this to them – a teacher, classmate, sibling, etc. Others have drawn the conclusion from a personal comparison to others, including the world of celebrity singers.
The truth is that singing is a developmental skill that can be learned by virtually everyone.
And the good news is that even in adulthood, those who have been shut down in childhood can learn to sing again, picking up their development from where they left off.
This myth has been further exacerbated, in the developed world, as the value has become attached to singing products, rather than processes, resulting in sweeping changes to the way singing is practiced – or perhaps more accurately, not practiced.
In many ways, singing has become a commodity – a product produced by others which people acquire and consume – shifting away from the participatory experience it used to be, resulting in much-reduced actual singing for its own sake (Wise, 2009).
Sloboda (1999) summed it up, saying that music had become a matter of “talent, achievement, and success, rather than community, fulfillment or transcendence.”
Fortunately for all of us, the evidence bears out that singing is a developmental capacity, inherent in our human design. Or in other words, virtually everyone has the capacity to learn to sing.
At Growing The Voices: Festival 500, through our programs, we have been demonstrating this capacity through hundreds of successful adult recoveries and discoveries of their singing selves.
We aim to increase the capacity for, and perceived value of, singing through widening access and opportunities for people of all ages to engage with it.
It is our desire to enable new singing practices which connect people to each other in participatory, communal settings. This approach ultimately provides a broader, inclusionary ecology of expressive life.
Our mandate is to start a new conversation about singing. And our primary goal is to raise awareness of the developmental nature and multiple benefits for all who engage in singing.
We aim to engage in singing as an inclusive and participatory way of being in community.
The benefits of singing are well-documented, yet countless people do not actively sing past their time at high school. They might like to, but lack access, confidence or the opportunity to do so.
Growing The Voices: Festival 500 is dedicated to creating accessible means and opportunity for people to recover or discover their singing capacity. We are committed to sharing and learning how this change may happen and how it transforms lives. We intend to spread the story about the joy and benefits which singing brings and create new ways to make that happen.
As an agency for exploring and expanding singing engagement, we are evidence-based and developmentally-oriented in our philosophy and operations. We have begun building this singing movement here in Newfoundland and Labrador. And through web-based international outreach, connection, sharing and exploration, we aim to learn from, and be inspired by, those who are likewise interested in ‘growing the voices’.
In essence, our vision is glocal – through establishing local action and forging global partnerships, we aim to connect and re-connect folks with their singing selves and promote singing together in every way, everywhere
Q: Can singing really make you happier?
A: It is a fact that singing makes people happier and healthier. Research proves that singing brings an increased feeling of joy, a stronger sense of inclusion and a feeling of empowerment to people. Singing has also been proven to improve physical and psychological health and well-being. And it comes as no surprise that singing together actually strengthens communities and gives individuals access to a more expressive life.
Q: But, I really can’t sing.
A: There is well-established evidence that singing is a developmental capacity which is integral to the human design. People arrive with a facility for singing as a learned behaviour, just like talking or walking. Or in other words, contrary to popular belief, singing can be learned by the vast majority of the population. It is not an ability one is born with or not. It is, quite literally, a developmental capacity. Like all developmental aspects of life, it is subject to cultural influences. Which is to say that experience changes us. Socio-cultural influences can encourage and enhance our capacity to learn, or, can hinder and/or halt it.
Q: No, I didn’t get the singing ‘gene’, my brother/sister/cousin was always the singer in our family.
A: It is understandable that may be what you believe about yourself, but culture plays a really strong role in forming your beliefs. Because there is an extremely powerful yet incorrect “popular belief” that people arrive with the capacity to sing, or not, many are deeply, or completely discouraged in early life, and their singing development gets stuck. Teachers believe this myth. Parents believe it. Other children believe it.
Q: But, I’ve believed I couldn’t sing for my entire life! People have told me that I’m terrible!
A: Singing is so personal and so exposed an activity, and people act protectively about their feelings, trying to avoid judgment or embarrassment. Many just give up, because they believe the messaging they perceive about their supposed “singing inability”. It is common to hear adults protect themselves by making jokes about their poor singing up front to ward off embarrassment – that everyone would be better off if they would lip sync instead of singing out loud. Therefore, even though nearly everyone has the potential to experience the benefits of singing, many adults remove themselves from that possibility because their singing development has been halted.
That is the negative power of cultural myth, or ‘popular belief’, as it is more commonly called. Through our evidence-based intervention programs, we aim to debunk such myths by successfully restoring singing capacity and skill to those whose singing development has been stalled. Ultimately, our goal is to demonstrate that virtually everyone has the capacity to learn to sing, thereby widening access to singing immeasurably.
Find out what it did for others!
Jack Eastwood has spent most of his life believing he just “couldn’t” sing. Watch what happened when he joined So You Always Wanted to Sing!
Visit our Personal Stories page to hear more about what singing can do for you!