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From : Janet Swain – Song Dynasty Music

0438 965 397

Janet Swain brings harmony to the Gold Coast

Science is now agreeing with what many singers already know. Singing in harmony in a group can play a vital role in contributing to our physical and mental health.

In addition to releasing oxytocin, a natural stress reliever found to alleviate feelings of depression and loneliness, singing in a group can boost your immune system as well as your confidence. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that choristers’ heartbeats synchronise when they sing together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga. They showed that singing has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

“Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these,” says Dr Björn Vickhoff, who led the study. “It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.”

Janet Swain has long believed in the healing power of song both for listeners and singers. She began her musical career twenty-five years ago and has led both professional and community choirs all over the world. Her philanthropic endeavours include travelling to Uganda with Kwaya Australia where she led a group of 30 Australian singers to sing and perform for Ugandan VIPs with children from the African Children’s Choir.

Janet is passionate about the mental health of girls and women and has witnessed the positive effect music can have on their abilities to cope with day-to-day life.  She has recently relocated to Australia from Singapore where she founded and directed the renowned Janet Swain children’s and women’s choirs.

Her first two projects on the Gold Coast are a day-time and an evening community choir as well as a pioneering girl’s choir for ages twelve to twenty years. “I believe that teenage girls need a safe outlet where they can express their joy, worries or angst in a supportive environment. Singing songs with themes and lyrics to which the girls can relate is an essential component for achieving this successfully,” says Janet.

Janet is holding a short workshop on Saturday 15th November at Gecko House in Currumbin from 2 to 4pm for those who wish to meet her and learn more about her upcoming choirs. The workshop will provide the opportunity to learn some simple harmonies and songs, as well as some fun vocal exercises and rhythm games.

Meet and sing with Janet on Saturday 15 November, 2pm to 4pm.

The cost is $20. 

Registration is essential. email, or ph 0438 965397



by Liz Swain, November 2014

Liz has been training boys’ voices for many years and knows that when they discover the power and versatility of their voice, boys quickly become addicted to it. Good singing stimulates every fibre of the body creating a feeling of well-being and exhilaration. Good singing excites and exercises muscle, brain and breath.

Boys’ voices, like their bodies, are strong, athletic and flexible.  As trebles they love to sing high notes. As they grow their voices gradually deepen and they move down in pitch to become altos (counter tenors), tenors or basses. It is not unusual for a sixteen-year-old to sing treble in one song and bass in the next.  Boys’ voices, which change rapidly as they reach puberty, are often at their peak between the ages of 11 and 14.

But it is at this age that many boys stop singing and never start again. 

Many secondary schools are not being given the resources or the teachers to keep boys singing.  Music teachers need to be educated about the boys’ changing voice and to understand that when the “change” happens boys do not need to stop singing.  They must instead be shown how to use their new voice.  This is when most teachers give up.  It’s too hard! Let’s just concentrate on the girls. But we owe it to our boys to try harder! They need to experience all the physical and mental benefits and to feel the buzz that singing brings.

Being a member of a choir gives boys the same sense of involvement and achievement as membership of a sports team. As well as the health benefits – raising self-esteem, sense of team spirit, physical stamina – singing collectively provides the challenge of concentration and responsibility to the group.

Adult choirs are becoming bereft of tenors and basses. Boys (and men) will delight in singing with a rock band but when it comes to singing in mixed groups they are reluctant.

Sadly, singing is being left to the girls and women.

What can we do to change this?

Here are some ideas for thought and discussion

Boys need to sing with boys!

Songs must be appropriate.

Pitch is crucial.

Choir must not clash with sports practice!

Music teachers must be trained.

Education Departments need to front up to the challenge!

These are some of the things that have motivated Liz to start the North Coast Boys’ Voices.

Come on boys!  Singing is cool! …. magical ……  inspiring.

Singing is fun!

When: Commencing in February 2015           Cost: $80 per term (8 weeks)


How important is music education in schools?


Published March 28, 2012


Millions of children in schools enjoy music each day by singing a song during circle time, learning to play an instrument, or singing a part in a chorus. This month, musicians and music educators celebrate Music in Our Schools Month sponsored by the National Association for Music Education.

Music In Our Schools Month celebrates all the benefits of having quality music education programs in schools and encourages districts to maintain such programs at a time when many face tough budgetary constraints.

Music education supporters advocate the importance of exposing young children to a variety of instruments, choral arrangements, and styles of music to enhance their educational experience and foster their academic, social, and emotional growth.

These supporters insist that music is more than an enjoyable hobby – and there is some science to back up these claims.

A 2007 study published in the Journal for Research in Music Education tied quality music education instruction to improved academic performance—specifically, better scores on standardized tests.

A 2005 article in The Midland Chemist found almost all of the past winners of the Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science, and Technology for high school students played one or more instruments, supporting a long-debated connection between success in music and science.

Often times, teachers and parents themselves report that studying music teaches discipline, perseverance, and work ethic.

Florida mother Kerissa Blue credits music with instilling a list of positive traits in her 12-year-old son, including patience, teamwork, discipline, and respect. She also observed an increase in his reading comprehension. Her son Krystopher added studying music has helped him with his reading fluency, creating mental images, and recognition of patterns.

Krystopher previously learned to play clarinet and took private lessons four days a week for four years. He currently participates in his middle school band playing percussion. When asked what level of dedication is needed to be successful in music, he replied “A lot!”

In New Jersey, River Edge’s Teacher of the Year, music teacher Kelly Dent said she enjoys watching students express themselves in a cooperative setting. She called those moments “pure magic.”

“The experience can be as simple as performing a hand clapping game with a partner, or as complex as a four part canon, but the result is the same- an improvement in emotional well-being and enhanced sensitivity to the needs of others,” Dent said. “In this way, music programs, especially those focused on making music, play an essential role in the development of social skills and emotional awareness in students.”

In addition to the potential benefits of engaging in musical activities, exposing children to music at a young age may even open an avenue towards a career. Prior to entering the teaching profession, Dent herself played the French horn in a number of Broadway orchestras, including Wicked.

“As a child, I benefited immensely from musical experiences in my community,” Dent said. “I was able to travel the world, participate in summer music festivals, and eventually come to New York City to study. All of this was possible because of my early exposure to music lessons and ensembles.”

Music therapy has proven to have some success among children with disabilities, as well. Children are drawn to the rhythm of the instruments and many find a way to communicate and open themselves up by singing or playing an instrument. Increasingly, schools and after-school programs for children with disabilities are incorporating music therapy and seeing great results.

Music In Our Schools Month aims to highlight the many benefits quality music education programs can have on children in America’s schools. Supporters are already out there, raising money and awareness to maintain these programs – which they say is essential to a child’s mental awareness and development.  Do you agree?

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.



Singing the key to teaching school children music, expert says

Updated 21 Oct 2014, 12:26pmTue 21 Oct 2014, 12:26pm

One of the designers of a new program to improve music education in Australian schools says singing is the best way to teach children music.

Award-winning conductor Richard Gill is credited with being the driving force behind the National Music Teachers Mentorship Pilot Programme, announced today by the Federal Government.

The $594,000 program will see professional music educators mentor selected classroom teachers across Australia.

Mr Gill said singing, rather than learning a musical instrument, was the best way to introduce children to music.

“I think a lot of kids get sick of instruments because they’re offered too early,” Mr Gill told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Red Symons.

He said children are often overwhelmed by having to learn to read music on top of learning the technique of a musical instrument.

“If you give them a basis of singing from the beginning, and they learn their musical literacy through singing, then going to the instrument is far less problematic,” he said.

Mr Gill said children should learn to sing a wide variety of songs.

“I think kids should sing all sorts of songs, they should sing folk songs and pop songs and rock songs… there are millions of songs out there,” he said.

He said children can commit dozens of songs to memory without having to learn to read music.

“Once they know all of these fabulous songs, they can then learn to read the notation of these songs,” he said.

“Because they know the songs inside out… suddenly the notation makes sense.”

Teachers working with teachers

A joint announcement by Arts Minister George Brandis and Education Minister Christopher Pyne thanked Mr Gill for “his drive in bringing this programme to fruition”.

Mr Gill will lead the mentorship program, which will be hosted by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

He said a national review of music education in 2004 identified a great disparity in the way music is taught in schools across the country.

“Some state schools have fantastic music teachers, but there are other state schools which have none at all,” he said.

He said the pilot program was about “teachers working with teachers”.

“What I’m looking at is identifying strong teachers all over the country, and there are fabulous music teachers all over Australia, who can train other teachers,” he said.

Around 50 teachers will take part in the first year of the three-year program, which will commence in February 2015.

Mr Gill said the program is a cost-effective way of improving music education in the state school system, as it utilises the skills of existing teachers.

“You’ve got people who can teach and can learn how to teach music,” he said.

“They’re immediately in the classroom, you don’t have to wait for an undergraduate to be trained for four years.”

He said for teachers this way of working is “nothing new”.

“Teachers have been working like this for a long time, helping each other,” he said.

“It’s just that we’ve never really recognised it nationally for music, and that’s why this is such a fantastic announcement from the Federal Government today.”


Singing Changes Your Brain

Group singing has been scientifically proven to lower stress, relieve anxiety, and elevate endorphins

When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all. It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony. So it’s not surprising that group singing is on the rise. According to Chorus America, 32.5 million adults sing in choirs, up by almost 10 million over the past six years. Many people think  of church music when you bring up group singing, but there are over 270,000 choruses across the country and they include gospel groups to show choirs like the ones depicted in Glee to strictly amateur groups like Choir! Choir! Choir! singing David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World.

As the popularity of group singing grows, science has been hard at work trying to explain why it has such a calming yet energizing effect on people. What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure.  Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness.  A very recent study even attempts to make the case that “music evolved as a tool of social living,” and that the pleasure that comes from singing together is our evolutionary reward for coming together cooperatively, instead of hiding alone, every cave-dweller for him or herself.

The benefits of singing regularly seem to be cumulative. In one study, singers were found to have lower levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress.  A very preliminary investigation suggesting that our heart rates may sync up during group singing could also explain why singing together sometimes feels like a guided group meditation. Study after study has found that singing relieves anxiety and contributes to quality of life. Dr. Julene K. Johnson, a researcher who has focused on older singers, recently began a five year study to examine group singing as an affordable method to improve the health and well-being of older adults.

It turns out you don’t even have to be a good singer to reap the rewards.  According to one 2005 study, group singing “can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”  Singing groups vary from casual affairs where no audition is necessary to serious, committed professional or avocational choirs like the Los Angeles Master Chorale or my chorus in New York City, which I joined when I was 26 and depressed, all based on a single memory of singing in a choir at Christmas, an experience so euphoric I never forgot it.

If you want to find a singing group to join, ChoirPlace and ChoralNet are good places to begin, or more local sites like the New York Choral Consortium, which has links to the Vocal Area Network and other sites, or the Greater Boston Choral Consortium.  But if you can’t find one at any of these sites, you can always google “choir” or “choral society” and your city or town to find more. Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out.  It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.  Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.


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