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The Incredible, Amazing and Overwhelming Power of Music

I can’t imagine a life without music. Living during lockdown and not being able to go out and meet friends? Well, I may not be thrilled about being stuck at home but I’m slowly getting used to it. It’s not great but it’ll just have to do. But life without music? NO WAY!!! Music is so incredibly important to me. I grew up in a very musical household and, as a child, I loved nothing better than performing on stage with my father. Music played a huge role during my childhood and shaped me in so many different ways. I even attended the Conservatoire with the idea of becoming a music teacher, because I’ve always been passionate about sharing my love for music too. I sing, I play the ukelele, my BFG plays the piano. We’ve performed together at lots of different meet-ups and other conferences. I sang at my father’s funeral because words alone just weren’t enough to express my undying love and incredible sadness. Music not only allows me to express myself, it’s an essential part of my life.

So, it’s not very surprising that I use it in my work as Scrum Master too. I use music to set the tone for the game we’re about to play. You can expect to hear Love Shack when we’re about to work up a sweat. Or Dont' Worry, Be Happy when I want everybody to quiet down and really be aware of themselves in the moment. I’ll play Move On Up when the day’s over and I want everybody to enjoy themselves and celebrate. But music isn’t just useful for setting the tone. If you want to play a game for, let’s say 3 minutes, simply put some music on and turn it off when the three minutes are over. The entire group will automatically stop with what they were doing. I guarantee it. Music does something to a group. It provides an instant connection and helps people come together. It also helps people to concentrate, which is why I like to play classical instrumental music when organising an Xtrem Reading session, for instance. It really helps the participants focus on their books. There are so many ways you can use music to facilitate your events. I could go on forever. The best thing, especially right now, is that it also works from a distance. One of my favourite energizers right now, is the Online Disco. Play a few catchy tunes and ask everybody to bring their best moves to the dancefloor, also known as their own living room, with or without turning their camera on. I’ve noticed that most people will be hesitant to turn their camera on at first but usually manage to overcome their hesitation quickly and those who don’t? That’s fine too! As long as they’re dancing to the same song, they’re still an important part of the connection.

I’ve talked about the importance of using your entire body when trying to learn new things in my blog on Analogue vs. Dialogue a while back and about the research that’s being done to prove this. Well, that’s nothing compared to the power of music and when I tried to go online to see what kind of research was out there, I almost drowned in a sea of information. The amount of research available is overwhelming! One of my personal favourites is Erik Scherder, a Dutch neuropsychologist who’s been doing a lot of research into the power of music. He discovered that music creates links between different parts of the brains, for instance those parts that have to do with empathy. But also that music enables other parts of the brain to take over functions of parts that had been damaged as a result of trauma, for instance, to name but a few of the examples he provides during some of the inspiring he gave that can be found online. Which unfortunately are all in Dutch. I was actually really surprised when I visited the TED website to discover that he wasn’t on their list of speakers. I did find a short English talk by Erik that was recently posted online by WarChild, in which he briefly addresses the power of music when working with traumatised children in conflict areas but I’m afraid that it doesn’t really do him or the subject justice compared to some of the Dutch talks I’ve seen. But I have to say that he’s now even more of a hero to me for participating in such a worthy cause!

So, after having failed to find a talk by Erik, I tried to see if there were other scientist who gave a TEDTalk about music that I could share. When I typed in ‘music’ I got 27 pages of hits! When I typed in ‘power of music’ I was left with 7 pages worth of hits. And unfortunately, a lot of these hits didn’t have anything to do with what I was looking for but I did find a wonderful Talk by a young singer-songwriter named Esha Alwani who talks about how making music helped her overcome the symptoms of her Tourette syndrome. As she says: ‘when playing or even listening to music, I don’t tic.’ Her brave speech, tics and all, just blew me away. Talk about the power of music.

I tried to find a few articles that would help me summarise why music is so incredibly powerful and important and not only did I almost drown in that sea of information, I also completely lost track of time, reading these wonderful articles on available research but more importantly reading and listening to the many, many, many people explaining what music meant to them and how it had impacted them and changed their lives for the better. And although most stories were completely different from mine, I felt an instant connection to those people. To people from different places, backgrounds, with completely different interests and who were into so many different kinds of music for completely different reasons. But you know what? All those differences weren’t important, the connection was still there.

I could go on and on and come up with more and very different examples of music and the way it can help us, heal us, bring us joy, connect us, teach us, inspire us,……. But there are just too many examples to choose from and to me, that simply proves the Incredible, Amazing and Overwhelming Power of Music.

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