“When music is utilized in knowledgeable ways, evidence suggests it can have positive effects.” — Raymond MacDonald
Recently I have been reading a number of books and research papers about an impact the active music participation has on humans. And what surprises me is that there is a substantial gap in the demographics most of these writings are focusing on – healthy adults.
Everything starts with various studies focused on music and yet unborn children, and continues with many researchers working with children and young adults up to 24 years old. And then comes the gap of some forty years (or roughly two generations), thinly overarched by researching therapeutic impact on people with special needs. Then, again, much more light is being put on elderly people and how they can benefit from active music participation.
This leaves mostly untouched people in their most productive years from 25 to 65! This approach in partly understandable, as active music making can have huge impact on young generation in their most formative years. Elderly, on the other hand, have more health issues due to aging, where music (whether active or passive listening) is being used quite successfully. Also, these demographics have potentially less time constrains, so they may be more available for research.
But why are healthy adults omitted in many studies? Is it because after growing up from their music studies, they put their tired music instruments into closets and have become only passive consumers of the music industry products? Or they lack sufficient time, energy and motivation to either maintain, or further develop their already acquired musicality, even to pursue something completely new?
This is where I see a huge opportunity for artistic interventions – in focusing on people in their most active stages of life, and helping them improve quality of life through active music participation. This opportunity stands in front of academics and researchers on one side, but much more than that, it is on the side of music educators, professional musicians and specialized consultants and professionals, whose role should be to make active music-making a.k.a. musicking – available, understandable and enjoyable to these demographics.
In particular, I see the opportunity in organizing and supporting community and work-place choir singing, drumming circles, community and work-place orchestras and music bands, music composing and songwriting workshops, improvisation groups, music classes and jam-sessions at work-place.
Active music participation in a work-place setting is a great opportunity for employers to reap the benefits music offers. Among results such an approach represents directly to the bottom line, we could count: better employees wellbeing and health representing lower absenteeism and turnover; less stress and better work environment; better teamwork; more efficient management and leadership; more creative thinking and innovative ideas; more fun and motivation.
Commoditized music recordings are nowadays aimed to audience referred as ‘users’ of fast growing streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music. I believe that much better approach to ‘using music’ is actually to make it, and participate in that making actively. That unique experience cannot be replaced by passive listening to any music recording.