Music has always played a vital role in times of uncertainty – whether it’s creating a sense of community, lifting spirits or providing a much-needed distraction.

Impromptu balcony concerts, virtual singalongs, YouTube parodies and online music festivals have become the soundtrack to the coronavirus pandemic.

Music brings us together

Queensland Conservatorium senior lecturer Dr Leah Coutts said collective music-making helped create a sense of community, even while people were forced to isolate or social distance.

“One of the benefits of collective music making is that it creates a sense of belonging and participation. It not only reduces a sense of isolation, but it also brings us together with a collective spirit of ‘we will prevail’.”

Dr Coutts pointed to global viral sensation ‘Couch Choir’, the brainchild of Queensland Conservatorium alumnus Astrid Jorgensen.

“This is an example of how music can expand community boundaries, fostered by a shared global experience of isolation and distancing.”

Listening to music can lift our spirits

Music streaming services are awash with curated playlists and ‘Quarantunes’ designed to help lift people’s moods during the stress and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Coutts said there was strong scientific evidence that listening to music could help improve people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“When we listen to music, it boosts oxytocin, which is the feel good hormone, and elevates dopamine, which helps us to feel connected,” she said.

“It’s not always upbeat music that brings us joy – a lot of people are surprised to hear that sad songs can also help boost our wellbeing.

“It seems counterintuitive, but it can help us to process our emotions and to feel like we’re not going it alone.”

Rediscovering the joy of making music

Local music shops are reporting that business is booming, and it has never been easier to learn a new instrument, with an upswing in online music classes.

“We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that instruments are flying off the shelves at local music stores, and many teachers are starting to offer lessons online, including through the Open Conservatorium at Griffith,” she said.

“There are many benefits whenever you decide to start learning an instrument, whether it’s supporting brain health, boosting self-esteem or providing a sense of purpose.

“There is also the joy and happiness that self- expression brings. This can lead people to seek out ways to be part of community music and connect with their community.

Why music matters more than ever

Dr Coutts said the coronavirus pandemic had reminded people of the vital role music plays in our lives.

“The problem-solving, creativity, resilience and service being displayed by musicians at the moment is quite overwhelming,” she said.

“At a time where music and the arts is experiencing extreme hardship, music’s primary place in our lives is more apparent than ever.

“Musicians everywhere are turning to their craft, not only to stay connected to themselves, but to bring joy, healing and connection to people everywhere. I find that so powerful and inspiring.”