The Joy of Sharing Music: Participating in an Ensemble
by Laura Mason
The musical benefits of participating in an ensemble are innumerable. Students learn to hone skills like awareness of blend and balance, intonation, accuracy in keeping beat, and attention to detail when reading music. Beyond these benefits though, participating in a musical ensemble can be just plain fun. In fact, several studies have shown that our bodies release endorphins when we participate in synchronized movement activities such as group dance or music making. Here are three more positive emotions which participating in an ensemble promotes; emotions that can color a student’s musical experience with joy.
Connection and Trust – As humans one of our primary needs is social connection. When students come together in an ensemble they are working towards a common goal and sharing a common interest, building connections and relationships with those around them. The bonus is that their common interest, music, is a powerful connector itself. Music has been a key element in forming bonds in groups and cultures around the world for years. It’s a supportive environment with the powerful vehicle of music to propel cooperation and consequently fuel trust.
Self-Confidence – An ensemble is the perfect place for a student to build up self-confidence. They’ve worked hard on their own and with their teachers, learning their instrument and music. When they join a musical group, that growth is brought into a new light. They are able to share the fruits of their work with others and see how it contributes to the success of something even bigger. This awareness of personal progress promotes self-confidence. In an ensemble more advanced students get the chance to be coach and sometimes even teacher, further building up that confidence.
Motivation – While advanced students get to experience the role of coach, beginner students get to see where they can go with further study and practice. Even beyond this, playing in ensemble can provide motivation for those activities in musical study which may not be the student’s favorite. Working on breathing at the end of a phrase in lessons can seem tedious and playing with a metronome while practicing at home can undoubtedly be frustrating, but in an ensemble students see the practicality of these things. It’s much more fun perfecting your phrasing or persisting with the metronome when you can hear and see the orchestra or choir playing and singing with you. Teachers can tell students why these things are important, but there is nothing more motivating than experiencing the why.
Participating in an ensemble truly is a place for musical, academic, and social-emotional growth. When a student participates in an ensemble, they are not only forming life skills, they are also forming relationships. They are not only making music, they are making memories.
Laura Mason is a guest blogger and educator for our music school. She teaches voice, piano, and Kindermusik. In addition, Laura organizes and directs our Studio Singers offerings and our Musical Theatre summer camp.