By Paulo Camacho
Since I started working for Picardy Learning, I’ve written on a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of royalty-free music, to the Picardy staff’s favorite exercise music, to the musical careers of sports stars like Muhammad Ali and Bernie Williams.
But, this time around, I’m going to try something just a tad bit different, and I’m going to be frank. So, I’m going to speak to you, directly.
Because I’m going to explain why YOU — yes, you, the person reading this article right now — should join a choir.
Now, I’m sure that some of you just read that last statement — and, quite frankly, the title of this article — in horror, for one reason or another. Whether it’s because you think that you can’t sing a lick to save your life, or you’re terrified of doing anything in front of an audience, that’s totally understandable. But, if you’re reading this right now, chances are you’re interested in music. And, let me tell you, there are a lot of rewarding things about being in a choir that you’re probably missing out on.
And, how, you might ask, would I know?
Well, I happen to know a thing or two about being in a choir, myself — considering I’ve spent the better part of nine years in various choirs throughout my adolescent and adult life. So, why should you join a choir in the future, regardless of your singing experience? Let me count the ways:
For many choirs, No Experience is Necessary: I’ve had the privilege of singing in many different choirs in my life — from children’s chorales to elite chamber ensembles. Sure, those are the kinds of choirs where years of experience are required to succeed, and auditions are necessary for entry. And, don’t get me wrong — those were some of the most rewarding experiences in my music career.
But, do you know where I had the most fun? Choirs that accept just about anyone interested in music and singing. The atmosphere was much more loose, because no one had the preconceptions of having to “be a great singer” to be involved. No matter your experience level, if you loved singing, you brought something to the table. It’s probably one of the largest barriers between music lovers and the prospect of joining a choir that I’ve observed in a lot of people — the idea that they might not be “good enough.” But it’s one of the great unspoken truths about choir — the more, the merrier.
You (could) Get to Travel the World: Believe it or not, traveling abroad with a choir — whether amateur or professional — is a real possibility. You would be surprised about the kinds of opportunities afforded to a choir, especially when it comes to singing in new and exciting places. I’ve seen a children’s chorus travel to England on a 10-day tour. I was left behind when the Davis High Madrigals sang for the Pope at the Vatican (that’s a whole other story, altogether).
But, I’ve gotten to travel to Prague and Vienna, Honolulu and San Francisco, for various choral festivals. Granted, it’s not promised for all choirs, but who knows? I’ve been lucky enough to perform with choirs from all over the world. Perhaps you can, too.
Singing in a choir is as therapeutic as yoga: Now, mind you, during the bulk of my choir experience, I was in school. And, whether you’re still a student, or school has long been in the rearview, the stress of being a full-time student is likely not foreign to you. I can tell you that my time as a student — junior high, high school, college — was one big, glowing ball of stress. And, honestly, one might think that the “chore” of singing in choir would actually add to that stress — after all, you’re spending the better part of two hours per week sitting around and singing, while NOT doing “more important” work.
But studies have shown that participating in choir is as health-beneficial to you as a yoga session. And, when you think about it, that actually makes sense. After all, one of the main things you’re doing while singing in choir is focusing on your breathing. You do breathing exercises as warm-ups, and better breathing leads to better singing. You know what that also leads to? Regulation of the heart, and aiding in relaxation — just like yoga breathing.
I can also speak from experience: especially as a music junkie, it didn’t matter how stressed out I was about assignments due the next day, tests I had to study for, or projects that weren’t finished — I could melt into a vocal warm-up session and feel much more relaxed than I ever could have expected had I not been in choir practice.
The chance to perform a wide array of music: Here’s the thing about most choirs — They don’t just sing church hymns and Renaissance pieces. One of the big things that I appreciated, in just about every choir I sang in, was their variety of music. Even in a choir like the Davis High Madrigals — a group that LITERALLY had you dress in a Renaissance costume for official performances — our repertoire expanded well beyond classical music.
Here’s a great example straight from my junior year of high school — a bunch of the men in our choir, including myself, gathered together to arrange and perform an octet rendition of Billy Joel’s classic hit, “For The Longest Time”:
Being a part of choir can create long-lasting friendships: Allow me to tell you a little story. It’s my second quarter, attending UCD Gospel Choir, and it’s the first day. I had a successful first quarter, after essentially stumbling into the class — I was a soloist for the choir’s rendition of “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 at their quarter-end concert. We welcomed a number of new students to the choir, and we were told to do a “get to know each other” exercise — pair up with someone you don’t know and talk for five to ten minutes.
I didn’t wait long until a young lady I had never met made a beeline over to me, sat down in front of me, and introduced herself. She came over because she had seen my concert performance the quarter before, and immediately wanted to get to know me. That was 11 years ago. We’ve been close friends, ever since.
Sometimes, it’s that simple to make new friends in a choir — by simply making an impression with others. But, usually, it’s just a matter of group dynamics — the more you do something with others, the more likely you will grow closer to them. And, trust me — if you’re looking to get to know new people who share a love of music, a choir is a great place to start.