As I sit in front of my computer with another long list of to-do’s in preparation for the next day of teaching – what song would suit this student, how can I motivate this one to practise a little harder, what would be a perfect exercise for this one…..and have I remembered to change the time of this one’s lesson? it can sometimes feel overwhelming. As singing teachers, we are cheerleaders, administrators, life-long students, motivators, sympathetic ears….the list goes on!
Sometimes I ask myself - why do I go to all of this effort? What compels me to search that little bit harder for the perfect way to help a student find and improve their voice?
The answer, of course, is never too far away. Singing is so much more than singing!
Human connection. Since the beginning of time, communities around the world have recognised the value of singing together. When we sing, we bond with those around us through a common message – whether it’s the words of your favourite band at a rock concert, the national anthem at a sporting match, singing in a choir, or sharing the songs of our cultures or religions.
Good for your health. Did you know that a singer in full flight can reach a heart rate equivalent to that of a professional athlete? The increased use of breath when we sing enhances our cardio-vascular fitness, enhancing the delivery of oxygen to the cells in our body. Scientists claim that singing activates more areas of our brain than almost any other activity, promoting overall cognitive function. Singing has been shown to help improve the symptoms for sufferers of many diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, asthma and dyslexia, as well as helping people overcome speech impediments such as stutters.
Good for your soul. Expressing yourself through song can be a cathartic experience and is recommended by medical professionals as a great way to reduce stress levels. There are well documented benefits to mental health for those who sing, particularly for those who sing in groups.
Fun! Letting rip at a karaoke bar, or in the car, or the shower, or with friends, is one of the best ways to let your hair down. (Watching others do this can be pretty entertaining too!)
Emotional expression. ‘When words fail, music begins’ (Hans Christian Anderson). Need we say more? Sometimes, when we hear an artist who touches our hearts and seems to be singing directly to us, it can also help us to explore our own emotions.
Education. How did you learn your alphabet, or days of the week?! Singing is used to teach language, maths and many other things in between! There are well documented links between musical activity and better school results for our children. (See the work of Dr Anita Collins for more on this!)
Cultural identity. Songs are an important aspect in keeping alive the stories, beliefs and values of our families and cultures. Singing is the ultimate form of storytelling, used long before the printed word to pass on cultural values to younger generations.
And singing can change the world. Throughout history, social change has been led and supported by artists who aren’t afraid to shine the spotlight on difficult social issues. Think Bob Dylan, U2, Midnight Oil, The Chicks. Singing is also an important component of disaster relief – many artists donate their time to benefit concerts, survivors tell of humming or singing songs to keep their spirits up, and singing or listening to music can often help in recognising and healing past trauma.
So the next time you find yourself wondering whether all your late-night student worries are worth it, I encourage you to reflect on everything that singing is.
And remind yourself that SINGING MATTERS.
About the author
Shelli Hulcombe studied classical voice at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University and the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, UK). Her professional engagements have included operatic and concert performances both nationally and internationally. Shelli still regularly performs as a chamber musician and tours nationally with Musica Viva in their schools’ program.
Shelli is currently a Lecturer in Voice at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. She is a regular adjudicator at eisteddfodau and an AMEB examiner across all singing syllabi. She holds a MMusSt in vocal pedagogy and is currently enrolled in doctoral studies, investigating the implications of cross genre vocal training on overall vocal function.
ANATS is the peak professional association for singing teachers in Australia. We help teachers of any style of singing to be the best they can be, by provide professional development, advocacy and community for singing teachers and other voice professionals across Australia.
We welcome members from all musical cultures, vocal styles and singing or teaching environments.
We are committed to building an inclusive culture that encourages, supports, and celebrates the diverse voices of our industry.