One of our main aims as a band is to support people and their mental health, but you may ask how does playing a musical instruments help with, say, anxiety - when it can be quite nerve-wrecking to be exposed in performance?
Well let's have a look at what the science says....
This BBC article from 2011 discusses the results of a Canadian study that discovered the brain releases Dopamine (a neurotransmitter that when released "creates feelings of pleasure and reward") when people listened to music they enjoyed. It seems quite a late discovery for something that may seem obvious. People enjoy music. It makes us feel good. But it is good to know it's backed up by research.
So that's listening to music, what about playing it, with other people?
In 2017 "Out of the Ark Music" ran a program in 24 schools with the aim:
"... to measure the impact that fully integrating singing into the school curriculum could have on a range of measures, including well-being, social inclusion, pupil and teacher confidence, as well as academic attainment across the general and music curriculums."
The results found that singing together:
1. boosted mood and concentration
2. raised self-esteem
3. improved listening skills
4. improved literacy skills
5. improved maths skills
6. was better for inclusion and cohesion
Within that list are a number of mental health-related factors that were clearly improved with collective music-making.
"But that is singing", I hear you say. What about playing an instrument?
This article from Classic FM gives a number of specific mental health benefits of playing an instrument: It boosts one's social life; builds confidence and a sense of achievement and
"playing music actively engages and stimulates the brain, making you feel happy and occupied".
This article called "A Prescription for Music Lessons", details amazing results (including, improved mood, social cohesion, confidence and reduced stress) for seniors who participated in group keyboard classes, concluding that:
Playing a musical instrument provides health benefits without the adverse effects that accompany pharmacologic therapy. It also can help improve social skills and provide individuals with a sense of achievement. Group music lessons provide an opportunity for people to build bonds and positively affect lifestyle choices.
"Social Prescribing" is gaining more traction in the treatment of mental-health, with the NHS employing 'social prescribers' as part of GP practises. These people have the job to know what's going on in the community and be able to point patients in the direction of creative and social activities with which to become involved, as a co-treatment for their mental health issue.
No greater evidence for the mental-health benefits of playing an instrument can be found than among the players of Tutti!, Avanti and Prima. If you read the bios we've been featuring, you can see how playing an instrument impacts the mental health of our members:
"It's lovely to have something new to focus on, switch off from the other stuff, the sense of achievement when I've played a piece or got the note I couldn't get is great."
"I love playing with others and having a couple of hours on a Saturday morning just for me. It is a mental distraction from all the cares of home and work and I leave feeling refreshed yet positively challenged."
"The buzz of achievement when I know I am playing a piece well and we are all playing well together as a band. It is such a good natural high"
Last week was World Mental Health Day. It is a timely reminder that (especially with current events), taking care of our mental health is so important. I would encourage you to consider involving music in your mental health care plan. Even with so much restriction on social activities, due to Covid-19, there are ways and means of getting music into your life.
A place to start could be Making Music and their page of opportunities:
Or feel free to get in touch with us.