Phillip Potenziano is superintendent of Brunswick schools.

Last month’s column focused on the benefits of music, particularly playing an instrument.

I’d like to stay on that path for this piece and focus on the instrument we all have, the one we were born with, and that is our voice.

There’s something magical about music. While I’ll never perform at Carnegie Hall, I admittedly sing along with the music streaming in my car and I truly enjoy walking through a school and hearing our students singing in a music class or during rehearsal of a school production. You might say the halls are alive with the sound of music.

The brilliance of Taylor Swift and the success of hit shows like “American Idol” and “Glee” have given rise to the popularity of the chorus and similar performing groups.

At the Brunswick School Department, we’re seeing strong participation numbers, and that’s very good news, as joining a chorus or a choir offers a long list of benefits to students.

Children who sing in choruses have academic success and learn valuable life skills, according to a 2009 study by Chorus America. The study, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that chorus members earn better grades and, according to their parents, see improvement in several courses, including math and language arts, since joining the choir.


The parents in the survey also reported improvement in work habits, memory, practice and homework habits, as well as the ability to manage emotions and creativity – all traits conducive to learning and development.

The study confirmed something we see in Brunswick, that participants in chorus become better team players and have more advanced social skills (benefits that also come with other activities, clubs and even sports).

Ashley Albert, choir director at Brunswick High School, says participation in choir or band teaches students, in a very real way, the importance of tenacity and grit. “They work hard, day after day, to create something, aiming for perfection. It’s a pretty amazing thing.”

Chorus groups, like many other performing arts, create a closeness and bond among participants. Singers who perform in a larger group rely on everyone to do their best as part of a team. While there may be a few solos, success is largely based on the collective voices harmonizing together. As a member, everyone depends on you – as do you on them – to create something beautiful and uplifting.

Most importantly, activities like chorus provide a support network that is much needed by many students in these challenging times. This connection and sense of belonging goes a long way in an age where children are bombarded on social media with unrealistic definitions of body image, intelligence and popularity.

“A big thing we hear from parents is that it gave their child a place to belong and feel that someone believed in them, and where they could be part of something greater than themselves,” Albert said. “It helps them find their voice, their own confidence, not just in singing or playing an instrument, but finding their voice as a person.”


Albert tells me that for many students, that one place – music room, art room, etc. – is the reason they come to school and the only place they can be themselves, where they feel safe and accepted.

Chorus members leave school with friendships, memories and a love of music that will stay with them for life, whether the future performance means a Broadway stage, singing lullabies to an infant or a superintendent humming a favorite tune in his office.

A quote about choirs caught my eye: “I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity to see the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the teamwork. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that.”

This quote is from a former choir singer from England named Paul McCartney. I wonder if he’d like to stop by my office for a duet. Now that would really be something.

Comments are not available on this story.