One of the many failures in my life was an attempt to sing opera. Yup. I spent almost three years studying it in my early thirties. I was not even close to good enough to make a living at it for a plethora of reasons. However, I loved it. I always felt singing was better than therapy. That is, if you wanted to get centered, if you want to reduce stress, if you wanted to induce creativity.
There is increasing scientific evidence that music brings not only aesthetic joy, but also actual real world success. Multiple studies have linked music study and music performance to success.
In an article in the NY Times (Sunday Review, 10/13/13) titled, “Is Music the Key to Success?”, Joanne Lipman makes a compelling annecdotal case that it is. To cite just a few examples consider the following serious musicians:
- Condoleezza Rice—former Secretary of State, concert pianist.
- Alan Greenspan—former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, jazz clarinet and piano.
- Bruce Kovner—hedge fund billionaire, pianist out of Julliard.
- Roger McNamee—venture capitalist, rock musician.
- James Wolfensohn—former World Bank President, cello (played in Carnegie Hall).
- Larry Page—co-founder of Google, saxophone.
- Paul Allen—co-founder of Microsoft, guitar.
- Woody Allen—film auteur, clarinet.
- Steve Hayden—advertising executive (Apple “1984” commercial), cello.
- Andrea Mitchell—lead correspondent NBC, professional violinist.
- Steven Spielberg—producer and director, clarinetist.
Ms. Lipman’s list of successful business folks with music backgrounds seems endless. She notes you will find musicians at the top of almost any industry. Their success is not a coincidence, according to Ms. Lipman. Alan Greenspan says, “I can tell you as a statistician that the connection [between music and success] exists. The crucial question is: why does that connection exist?” Paul Allen’s answer is that music “reinforces your ability to create.” James Wolfensohn calls music a “hidden language” that enhances the ability to connect disparate or even contradictory ideas. Or take Steve Hayden who says his cello performance background helps him to work collaboratively. “Ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to play well with others, to know when to solo and when to follow.”
As to the particular value of singing, Stacy Horn wrote a lovely article last summer for Time Magazine entitled “Singing Changes Your Brain.” She notes that when you sing musical vibration moves through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape.
Much like Dr. Amy Cuddy (Harvard) and Dr. Carol Goman (Forbes) on the effect of body positions and body language on your sense of well-being and business efficacy, she notes many studies that show a lower level of cortisol (stress related hormone) and higher levels of endorphins and oxytocin in singers.
In a recent article by Chris Loersch and Nathan Arbuckle in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Nov. 13, 2013, pp. 777-798) it is even hypothesized that the pleasure of singing together is our evolutionary reward for joining together cooperatively.
As Stacy Horn sums up, “Singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out.” Thank you Stacey.