When my children were in elementary school (a looooooong time ago), I remember vividly the annual tradition whereby a local singer-songwriter would spend a few days collaborating with the students to create an original song. Under his guidance, they experienced firsthand the joy and wonder of creating both the lyrics and melody for their own class song and recording it together. Our family still has these CDs tucked away somewhere–yes, back then we still had CDs.
The point is…music is magical in the way it brings people together.
As a singer-songwriter myself, music has always offered a safe haven, a place to express creativity and share my passion for lyrics and melodies with others. For over two decades, I have performed as a vocalist and guitarist in bands, covering a vast catalog of artists and genres. But nothing compares to the experience of composing an original piece of music. The rush of hearing the lyrics in my head, finding a melody on piano or guitar, recording it in the studio and then working with an engineer to arrange and produce it–is a process that’s both beautiful and hugely fulfilling, and has led to some of my most enduring friendships.
Music Bonds Us
We all remember how, in the dark days of the pandemic, city residents would sing on balconies and musical artists would perform virtual concerts in their living rooms. The role of music during that time inspired research into the connection between social neuroscience and music. The American Psychological Association published a study in 2021 that highlights the social functions and brain mechanisms that contribute to music’s ability to nurture social connection. Researchers found that the brain networks used when making music overlap with those used when experiencing empathy and synchrony, demonstrating a fascinating relationship between the musical brain and the social brain.
A key driver of social connection through music is oxytocin, a chemical that contributes to the sense of feeling socially bonded with others. Oxytocin is also known as the “trust hormone” and the “love hormone.” Listening to soothing music, even by yourself, can release oxytocin, so listening to or creating music with others may release even more oxytocin. This is why music shared among a group can spark happiness and closeness.
Music In A Professional Setting
As social creatures, humans are always looking to feel connected with others. In a professional setting, it can feel out of place to express our deepest emotions, but singing and creating music together lends itself to self-expression without the need to share personal details. Further, singing and dancing in a group involves physical coordination, which can release endorphins, which gives us a positive, warm feeling we get to share with others. Why do you think coordinated dances like the Electric Slide are so popular at parties?
While there might not be an appropriate time to implement the Electric Slide into your typical workday — although I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out — the idea of bringing teams together through music is worth exploring.
Some companies boast in-house bands that practice in the office space once a week and even perform for colleagues at company meetings. Some have ERGs dedicated to heavy metal or classical music, or perhaps a group of employees that like to attend bluegrass concerts together. The possibilities are vast, the common denominator being that music has the power to create connection and friendship in a way that few other things can.
Music Boosts Productivity and Creativity
Music can also impact workplace productivity and creativity.
While music’s impact on performance has mostly been studied among athletes, the findings are relevant for all forms of work. The Health Sciences Academy reports that music draws our attention away from feelings of fatigue and pain when engaged in endurance activities such as running, cycling, or swimming. Similarly, music can take away from a sense of monotony throughout the workday. It can also cancel out external distractions — from background noises to distracting thoughts — and allow us to focus on the tasks at hand.
Music can also trigger positive emotions, boosting motivation by creating an association between joy and work. This is especially applicable for those who find themselves in jobs that aren’t inherently as creative as they are as people; music can be a great way to stimulate feelings of creativity while performing work tasks.
In recent years, I’ve become increasingly curious about how I might integrate music into my work of helping teams build connective tissue and healthy cultures. As we continue to adjust to hybrid and remote work environments, how could music foster increased connection among teams, departments, and entire organizations?
A team song, perhaps? A departmental anthem?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Better yet, send me a song about it. 🙂
WordBurger is a series of short videos in which I share thoughts, ideas, and reflections meant to motivate, inspire, and entice you to look at things differently, maybe even spark curiosity about what’s possible. The videos are offered with the hope of providing a respite from the stresses of the day, a brief lift above the noise, and a nibble of positivity. Be sure to check out past videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel.