Music in the News

The Benefits of Singing

Scientists say singing boosts the immune system.

Many studies done over a number of years have focused on the health benefits of singing, and the evidence is overwhelming.

  • Singing releases endorphins into your system and makes you feel energized and uplifted. People who sing are healthier than people who don’t.
  • Singing gives the lungs a workout,
  • Singing tones abdominal and intercostal muscles and the diaphragm, and stimulates circulation.
  • Singing makes us breathe more deeply than many forms of strenuous exercise, so we take in more oxygen, improve aerobic capacity and experience a release of muscle tension as well.” — Professor Graham Welch, Director of Educational Research, University of Surrey, Roehampton, UK

Violin Teacher India Jackson plays in Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra


In the spirit of reconciliation, the emphasis of this project has been on process rather than on product. Jacqueline Warwick, former director of the Fountain School of Performing Arts (FSPA), started pulling artists together for the project several years ago. One of her priorities was for students to experience genuine collaboration, even if it means upsetting the typical rehearsal process.

“If we haven’t challenged the students and even made them feel uncomfortable at times, then I don’t think we as an institution have done our job,” she says.

India Jackson, a violinist in the orchestra, says, “I have learned throughout this process that we must listen with compassion to those around us, to make sure that their stories are told in full.”


Instruments of Knowledge: Music and the Brain

Anne R. Stoklosa St. John Fisher College,


There is little doubt that music plays an important role in cultures all over the world and is an interconnected piece of every society. More specifically, actively engaging in the music by playing a musical instrument, particularly at a young age, has been a hot topic in neuroscience in recent decades. Playing a musical instrument has been shown to increase cognitive ability through enhanced neuronal communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, resulting in positive effects on learning, memory, fine motor skills, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, resulting in an overall more capable brain to apply in a multitude of settings. The current research and results are discussed, ultimately showing the importance of engaging children in instrument lessons of any kind to enhance the network of neuronal connections developing in the brain.

Creating music, magic at Fall River School of Performing Arts

Suzanne Rent | Posted: March 4, 2019, 2:35 p.m. | Updated: March 4, 2019

For 17 years, the Fall River School of Performing Arts has been nurturing local talent in music, musical theatre and dance.

Virginia Cox opened the school in 2002. A mom of five kids, she used to take them to lessons to various places all over the city. Cox and her husband, David, also taught private music lessons from their home. Then Cox saw a “For Sale” sign on the building on Windsor Junction Road. She bought it and transformed it into the school.

“It’s about learning music and feeling music and being able to share it and be proud of it,” Cox says. “I would compare us to any of the small, eclectic schools in New York.”

Inside, there is a dance studio and small rooms for guitar and piano lessons. Several of the teachers who started there in 2002 still teach here. The students come from Beaver Bank, Sackville, Bedford, Dartmouth and Fall River. Programs are for children and adults. When the school started, Cox says they had about 40 students. Now, that number is at least 300.

“We offer something quite a bit different than a bigger school because we get to know everybody,” Cox says. “It’s like a big family. They’re not just coming in to see their teacher. They’re coming in to see me, the other teachers. It’s a part of people’s lives.”

Shawn Mullen has been teaching guitar at the school for several years, starting out as a substitute and moving to full time in 2011.

“I’ve worked in a few establishments and what’s different about this place is that it’s really part of the community,” Mullen says. “We have generations of families. It’s very homey.”

Mullen says Cox is a great facilitator for the teachers, helping bring in families and students. And he says many of the teachers have been friends for years, often working in bands together. Cox is often seated at a reception area near the entrance of the school. Here teachers and students congregate.

“If you had a video camera, this would be the best sitcom,” he says.

The school hosts two recitals a year and also creates “instabands,” getting students from various lessons to work on a song together. There are guitar clinics and regular ensembles. Every Wednesday, some of the students perform on the stage for their parents. They often perform in bigger venues in the community. The musical theatre group is now rehearsing for a production of Fame.

Felicia Wasson started at the school taking piano lessons and switched to guitar. She says the teachers are some of the best she’s had and Cox is wonderful to work with. She’s now working on some country songs, including those by Travis Tritt and Merle Haggard. She’s played in almost every recital since she’s started here.

“It’s a very big part of music,” Wasson says, “and being able to play for people is a really cool experience.”

Cox says some students continue their music careers at NSCC. Emma LeBlanc of The Drug Rugs and Evan Meisner from Gloryhound both took lessons and taught classes here.

Cox says she’d like to have a larger stage area with more seating for families. And she says the relationships are the best part of the school.

“It’s still exciting,” Cox says. “Every recital, I cry. All of us have kind of grown up together.”

Playing an Instrument: Better for Your Brain than Just Listening

Penn Medicine News January 30, 2017 | by Sally Sapega

While research has long suggested listening to an orchestra’s performance of such well-known pieces as Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro may boost the audience’s brain power – a hypothesis aptly named The Mozart Effect—Penn Medicine experts suggest those playing in the orchestra may derive the most benefits of all.

This past holiday season, those positive effects hit close to home, as the Penn Medicine orchestra, comprised primarily of students from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and clinicians from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, performed its first concert.

Playing an instrument may be one of the best ways to help keep the brain healthy. “It engages every major part of the central nervous system,” said John Dani, PhD, chair of Neuroscience at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, tapping into both the right and left sides of the brain.  For example, playing the violin – which, like many instruments, requires the right hand to do something different than the left--  uses the peripheral nervous system, which controls movement of your fingers, as well as gross and fine motor skills. The brain’s executive function – which plans and makes decisions – comes into play as a musician plays one part but keeps focus on what’s coming next.  Couple that with the total sensory input – visual, auditory, emotional and all at the same time – and it becomes a total “workout” for the brain. “Recent studies suggest that music may be a uniquely good form of exercising your brain,” he said. “Fun can also be good for you.”


And the best news: While learning to play an instrument as a child provides life-long benefits to the  brain, taking music lessons in your 60s – or older – can boost your brain’s health as well, helping to decrease loss of memory and cognitive function. Results from a study of people who started to play piano between the ages of 60 and 85 noted that “after six months, those who had received piano lessons showed more robust gains in memory, verbal fluency, the speed at which they processed information, planning ability, and other cognitive functions, as compared with those who had not received lessons.” So it’s never too late.

Of course, playing an instrument brings immediate benefits as well. Dorothy Kliniewski, a nurse at HUP who plays the violin, called the numerous rehearsals leading up to the concert “the highlight of my day.  It’s a huge stress reliever… and it’s fun!”

Jose Pascual, MD, a surgeon in the Trauma Center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, said, “It allows me to pull out of the sometimes psychologically and physically draining day-to-day caring and witnessing of injured patients, particularly those suffering tragic events such as death by gun violence.”  Plus, it provides “the opportunity to produce beautiful art with my [14-year-old] son, Mateo,” who also plays in the orchestra. His son agreed: “It helps bring us closer.”

Gina Chang, a second year PSOM student, started the orchestra last spring with fellow student Dan Zhang. Both had to cut back on their music considerably since starting medical school. “When we discussed the possibility of starting an orchestra, we realized how much we missed playing and [in his case], conducting,” she said. And they clearly weren’t alone. More than 40 Penn doctors, nurses, and grad students answered their call to participate, squeezing out time from their overloaded schedules for something they loved … and missed.

“We were amazed by and grateful for the musicians’ enthusiasm, engagement, and dedication,” Chang said. “The orchestra is proof that music can and should remain a part of us,” no matter where their lives take them.

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