Resilience, or the ability to overcome adversity, is one of the most important qualities to be developed, today more than ever where young people have faced, with Covid, significant interruptions in their training, family and professional life.
The good news is that it is not an innate quality, but a skill that can be acquired through experience and our interactions with others. Playing music in a group, participating in an orchestra or choir is for example a good situation to develop these skills.
Read more: Children’s orchestras, a way to democratize musical practice?
In a study conducted among young people aged 14 to 25, established musicians who participate in orchestras in Tasmania, we wondered about the skills that these experiences allow to develop in addition to learning an instrument and singing. .
For this project, we collected feedback from musicians, teachers and directors in a closed Facebook group and then conducted eight follow-up interviews which highlighted the teamwork, empathy and courage developed by these group practices, which are all components of resilience.
Listen to each other
To play together, you need to listen to yourself, understand what’s going on around you and be ready to change your playing style, depending on the performance of the group. You also need to be able to appreciate the contributions of others, beyond the judgment you express about your own work.
As David, a conductor explains, over time players have come to realize that they are ultimately responsible for each other, not just the conductor. . Participation in a musical ensemble therefore allows you to learn all the attitudes and methods necessary for group work.
[Près de 80 000 lecteurs font confiance à la newsletter de The Conversation pour mieux comprendre les grands enjeux du monde. Abonnez-vous aujourd’hui]
The musicians must also be able to share their ideas and feelings with the other participants. In a choir or orchestra, musical creation is a shared creative experience, involving the whole body. This is where empathy comes in. Like teamwork, it can be cumulative, growing through rehearsals and performances, with students and teachers supporting each other.
“I have to accept that I’m not always going to be the focal point of a song,” observes Tom, as Simon tells us he realized he wasn’t the only one having to work his chords over and over.
It is important for young people to develop a certain mood conducive to learning, understanding that effort makes them stronger and that study is a long-term commitment. This is where grit comes in, allowing you to pursue a goal and keep it even if the going gets tough.
Learning an instrument takes daily practice, and sometimes it can take months to pick up speed and play a piece well. Commitment is therefore a key element of musical training, as underlined by the testimony of Lawrence, who participated in a musical in his school: “several times during the year I wanted to ‘abandon […] but it was something I was committed to and I continued to work to be at the best of my abilities, even if I felt I couldn’t do it ”.
Tory, a choir director notes that concerts or performances learn to deal with the unexpected and this requires some form of courage.
“There is the certainty of being in a group, to a certain extent, but getting on stage is always like taking a leap into the unknown. After trying, you can count on each other, but that doesn’t stop the unexpected from happening […]. It is a very important skill in life to be able to recognize that a performance was not good, but to tell yourself that whatever happens, we will do it again. “
The specificities of music
Does music have something special to promote resilience, compared to other group activities, in sports or in the classroom? Young people can learn teamwork very well through games or by participating in sports competitions.
When it comes to music, you have to see that it causes activity in different parts of the brain simultaneously. Listening to the music you like activates the reward circuit. Dopamine and serotonin are released, resulting in a state of well-being and an incentive to continue listening to music.
Learning a musical instrument also strengthens connections in the brain, connecting the auditory cortex to parts of the brain involved in processing complex information. This link has been shown to improve memory, motor function and learning in other areas.
Listening to music with others also affects the levels of the binding hormone oxytocin, lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosting immune function.
For young people, music can offer a valuable respite from study and daily life and help them manage and express their emotions.
* names have been changed.