Evidence That It Works
Research shows that chanting, drumming or dancing together has a unifying effect on people. One study investigated the relationship between interpersonal synchrony created through drumming and prosocial behavior. In the experiment, 18 female volunteers (ranging from 19 to 30 years old) with no formal musical training performed a task of accurately playing the rhythm they were taught. Participants were told that two experimenters would take turns drumming with them one at a time. One of the co-drumming experimenters was in synchrony with the participants’ rhythm and the other was not.
Following the drumming session, participants were given the opportunity to help an experimenter pick up pencils she “accidentally” dropped in front of them. Researchers found that participants collected more pencils when the experimenter had been a synchronous drum partner compared with when the experimenter had been an asynchronous drum partner.
Another study points to the association between music and its beneficial effects. Researchers found that performing music (such as drumming, singing, and dancing) when compared to listening to music alone resulted in performers having higher pain thresholds and greater levels of positive emotion.
Finally, music was found to be a source of awe among a large sample of study participants from two distinct cultural backgrounds (the United States and China) who were asked to identify feelings for each of 2,168 music samples.
Why Does It Matter?
Rhythm in music has the power to bring people together, helping to increase prosocial behavior and a sense of community. When young people listen to music with their peers, a sense of belonging and connection is higher among peer groups—a significant contributor to students’ academic achievement and resilience.
Listening to or creating music with students may lead to a more empathetic and cooperative classroom environment. For example, a group of primary-school-aged children exposed to musical games one hour a week during an academic year significantly increased their empathy scores. Thus, the more we bring music into the classroom, the greater opportunities we have to cultivate empathy and nurture cooperative engagement, helping to enrich the learning experience of all students.