The Unbelievable Benefits of Singing in a Choir

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir may be one of the best recognized all-volunteer choirs in America, but a study found that 42.6 million Americans participate in choir, many of them volunteers.(Photo: More Good Foundation)
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir may be one of the best recognized all-volunteer choirs in America, but a study found that 42.6 million Americans participate in choir, many of them volunteers.(Photo: More Good Foundation)

The San Francisco Classical Voice this week points to a 2009 study by Chorus America (a national advocacy group for choral singing in the United States) that found 18.1% (22.9% if you count children ages 6-12) of US households have one or more family members participating in a choir.

That’s about 42.6 million people.

More than the number of Americans who play sports, The San Francisco Classical Voice claims.

The study has a number of other interesting (and possibly too-good-t0-be-true findings) that we thought were interesting enough to warrant a closer look.

In particular, we wanted to see if the claims Chorus America makes would hold up under closer scrutiny. So, here are a few of the possible issues we found.

Claim: ‘Choristers are Better Citizens’

Chorus America claims that Choristers are better citizens. Why? Because, they say, choristers are more likely to donate their time and money to causes and to vote in elections.

While this may turn out to have some validity, the method used to reach this conclusion has a few potential problems.

First, Chorus America is making comparisons between two samples (‘choristers’ vs. ‘general public’) that are not drawn from the same pool: the ‘choristers,’ are sampled from an internal database maintained by Chorus America, while the ‘general public’ sample is from a national panel.

The national panel was chosen to be representative of the broader U.S. population, but Chorus America’s own list — drawn from their own sample population of choristers — is not.

So, essentially the respondents in Chorus America’s internal sample may be predisposed to believe that choristers are better citizens than if Chorus America had posed the same question to the subset of their national sample who had responded that they participated in a choir.

Also, given that the majority of choruses are made up of volunteers (according to Chorus America’s own data), thus making participation in these choruses a “volunteer activity” – is it any wonder that survey respondents who are in choirs would report a higher than expected rate of volunteerism?

Claim: ‘Children Who Sing Have Greater Academic Success and Life Skills’

While Chorus America does offer some support for this claim by pointing to actual data about students’ grades, they also surveyed parents, the majority of whom reported that their child has become more self-confident, shown more self-discipline and improved their memory since joining a choir.

The issue here is asking parents to draw a causal relationship between the activity (singing in a choir) and the outcome (better memory).

To see why this is a problem, consider these three questions:

  • Has playing sports improved your child’s memory?
  • Has eating more apples improved your child’s memory?
  • Has singing in choir improved your child’s memory?

If you’re a parent, maybe you answered “yes” to all three, so how do you know which of the three possible causes is actually responsible for the result? In short, you don’t. It could have been any of the three, a combination or something else entirely.

Other Findings

The study has a number of other interesting findings and you can read the rest of them here.

In short, singing in choir may very well be a good thing. But how good? We’re still not sure.

Do you sing in a choir? Leave a comment and let us know why and how it has affected your life.

Comments
  • Melayna Rogers

    I am currently a choral member of the Robert E. Lee choir also known as the Choralees. I started singing in this choir my ninth grade year and I am now going into the 12th grade. Singing in this choir has changed my life. With the help of my wonderful choir director, Dr. Brenda Shuford, I have discovered my opera voice and as the 17 year old teenager I am, I do want to pursue being and opera singer for a full time career. My existence in this choir has changed the lives in others as well. My parents, my siblings, my friends, peers, and even my enemies. You never really know how much of a difference you are making in other’s lives when using your voice, and I pray to the Lord that in His will, nothing will stop me from being his messenger through music.