Despite less prevalence in schools, choir boasts benefits similar to band, orchestra

For a large portion of my life, music lived in my mind and breathed through my hands. At the age of four I began learning the piano, and played until my knuckles ached and my eyes were sealed shut. During sixth grade, I picked up the violin and dropped the bow only to reapply resin. So why is it that with all my ventures into the musical arts, I never once before high school considered singing?

The answer is simple: I’m not talented.

Or at least I was never told that I was. Whether it be screeching in the car during road trips or bellowing opera songs in the shower, I was always encouraged to either lip sync or just not sing at all. My friends, my teachers, and my family always praised my skill with wooden instruments, but never the one that I carry around—my voice.

When I joined choir, I was astonished. Contrary to what I previously believed, not everyone would be on the radio or become an opera singer. Instead, I found myself in a group of people that was together to make ballads and weave chords of infinite expression. Just like in orchestra and band, most people weren’t talented. But there were much fewer people. According to the University Interscholastic League, roughly 80 percent of high-schoolers in music programs are in band or orchestra while only 20 percent are in choir. Despite the need for more instrumentalists, band and orchestra combined still far outnumbers choir. This disparity is worsened by the fact that many children across the nation are not exposed to singing as a performing art at a young age. In PUSD, elementary schools do not expose children to singing as a performing art. There is a mandatory recorder class in fourth grade and there are band classes starting in sixth grade, but no options for singing.

Despite all this, singing holds legitimate benefits. In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, symptoms in patients with speech disorders eased after many hours of choral training. There was a “significant amount” of improvement in reading comprehension and vowel phonation. In another study performed at the University of Sheffield, the level of endorphins in a large sample of choir members was measured before and after an hour-long rehearsal. After the rehearsal, endorphin levels increased dramatically, creating a natural high for many of the singers.

Singing can also boost the immune system. According to research conducted by the University of Frankfurt, singing increases antibody counts. Samples were taken before and after a rehearsal of Mozart’s “Requiem,” from both choir members and the audience.

Choral programs are also much cheaper and easier to implement in school systems. For many band members, they must either borrow or buy their own instrument to be able to participate. In choral programs, there is no need for this. Additionally, sheet music is often much cheaper for choirs. According to J.W. Pepper, the world’s largest sheet music provider, an average choral arrangement can cost up to $2 per copy, whereas a band arrangement can cost up to $45 per copy. With lower costs, choral programs can be integrated more effectively into school districts.

In the world of music, band and orchestra take the spotlight as melody, and choir stands in the back with harmony. Considering choir’s clear benefits, however, it shouldn’t be pushed aside, especially in schools.