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The Social Benefits of Playing Music

The Social Benefits of Playing Music

A recent study by Toronto SickKids suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of “a large majority of children and youth.” [1] Among the most significant factors for the decline were “greater stress from social isolation, including the cancellation of important events and the loss of in-person social interactions.” [2]

Earlier this year, we examined the myriad ways that music can positively affect the mental health of individuals here on the blog. With COVID-19 on the wane, and our children returning to school this month, we explore the social benefits of playing music, and particularly the significant role it can play in forming social bonds.

After months of isolation, is music the key to helping to get our children get back on track?


Have you ever heard a song that just made sense to you, as if it was speaking to you directly? Music can appear magical to us, rousing us and stirring our emotions in ways that we could not have predicted, but it is actually a complex system of shared symbols. It communicates—literally.

Knowing this might make music seem less exciting, less mysterious somehow. But it is key to understanding how music brings us together.

In his research, James Lull, Professor Emeritus of Communications Studies at San Jose State University, has discovered that most societies use music to communicate, and that music plays a key role in the formation of our cultural identities. [3] How does it achieve this?

Music brings people together; it continues to play a key role in our social rituals. While music used to accompany ancient tribal ceremonies, [4] it persists in the form of rituals like dances, parties, and concerts, while also figuring prominently in the background of work, study, and leisure activities.

Music also creates and solidifies social bonds between people. Lull points to anthems “created for nations, schools, political parties, military units, businesses, religious groups, labour unions, and protest movements” as examples of this. Relatedly, it also plays a key role in consciousness-raising by facilitating cultural conversations, creating awareness of social issues, and motivating young people to learn about the world. [5]

At the same time, it allows us to achieve our independence by providing “relief from the burdensome structures that surround adolescents—parents, teachers, and other authority figures.” [6] Through music, we develop our personal styles and nourish our interpersonal relationships as we gravitate towards who share our tastes.


Researchers have also found that during performance, in our efforts to stay in synch, we “tend to feel positive social feelings towards those whom we’re synchronizing, even if that person is not visible to us or in the same room.” [7] Though the reasons for this are not entirely clear, scientists have suggested that keeping time and playing in synch with other musicians triggers a release of endorphins in the brain.

Further, scientists have concluded that cooperation between musicians or members of a choir helps to build trust, and in doing so, lays a solid foundation for future cooperation. [8]

The musicologist Christopher Small has observed that musical performance often involves an exchange of emotion that enables performer and audience alike to form an intimate connection with strangers, since we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our emotions in the presence of others whom we don’t know and are unlikely to see ever again. [9]


At the Niagara Conservatory of Music, we have witnessed the immense social benefits of performing firsthand. That is why we provide our students with numerous opportunities to perform throughout the year. We have found that these events serve as great motivation for our students and provide them with the opportunity to take pride in their musical progress, to build their self-confidence, and to increase their self-esteem. For more information on our combo and glee club programs, please contact us.


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