Music Performance

Why Music Is Essential for Community Engagement

Music’s impact on our lives isn't spoken about enough. It helps us discover and express ourselves, creates a sense of belonging, and makes it easier to form social connections and bonds. 

The seemingly simple combination of rhythm, harmony, and melody has an appeal that dates as far back as 50,000 years ago, as evidenced by the Neanderthal Flute discovered in Slovenia. Early communities would play music to gather people for entertainment, celebration, communication, and more — sound familiar? 

Music is a great tool for community engagement, social change, and cultural expression. Here, we’ll dive into the role of music in community building and offer tips on how to use it for engagement. 

Why is music important for community engagement?

Picture this: You're in a new environment, surrounded by new people, probably looking for an opportunity to excuse yourself — and then a familiar song comes on. What happens? Odds are, it brings an instant sense of relief to the room, gets people to loosen up, and encourages interactions, paving the way for social connections. 

Such is the power of music. It acts as a social glue, helping people from different backgrounds, even those with almost nothing in common, connect over shared rhythms and experiences. This is why you'll find it playing at almost all social gatherings, from parties with family members and friends to business and political events. 

Music is a universal language that transcends cultural and language barriers, allowing people from all over the world to connect. It fosters a mutual understanding and respect among community members, often uniting them during times of celebration and even unrest. 

It's always had a significant impact on people, fueling them to fight for social change in times of oppression and bringing them together in times of disaster. Some popular songs and music events that have helped build and engage communities include:

  • "La Querelle des Investitures" — composed by troubadours (performers in the Middle Ages) to shed light on and ignite protest against the Catholic Church's abuse of power and corruption 
  • Beethoven's Ninth Symphony — featured Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” calling for hope and unity in post-war Europe
  • "Go Down, Moses" — often played by enslaved people in their quest for freedom and allegedly used by Harriet Tubman to identify herself to those who wanted to escape through the Underground Railroad 
  • "Born This Way" — sung by Lady Gaga to encourage queer acceptance 
  • 46664 Concerts — hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa to raise HIV/AIDS awareness 
  • Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief — a fundraising telethon for Haiti that featured international artists like Rihanna, Shakira, and Coldplay

Benefits of using music to strengthen community

Wondering if and how music brings people together? We've got you covered! Here are some of the roles music plays in community building and why it's a valuable tool for communities around the world.

Social cohesion

Social cohesion is a vital part of community building, as it encourages people to work together to achieve the common good. However, promoting cohesion in communities with varying languages, belief systems, and backgrounds can be challenging. That's where music comes into play. 

It's a universal language that everyone understands and relates to, so it can provide a common ground for people to come together. When people come together and build shared experiences, it can help promote social bonds. 

Music also facilitates nonverbal emotional expression, which can bring people with similar feelings together. Just look at middle and high school “cliques” — more often than not, people in the same groups have shared musical choices. And it's from these choices that friendships develop.

Music activities and gatherings, whether facilitated by school music programs or community music groups, create opportunities for social interaction. As a result, they can help build a supportive network among community members. They can also cultivate a sense of belonging and collective identity, alleviating social discomfort and paving the way for cohesion. 

Cultural understanding

Learning about other cultures from books may not be everyone’s idea of fun, and it doesn't always provide a complete picture of real, everyday life in that culture. One of the best ways to learn about different cultures in your community is to interact with individuals from various backgrounds and explore their music. 

People use music to highlight their cultural identities and shine a light on their unique experiences. So it’s one of the best tools for developing cultural understanding and, consequently, community building. 

Consider attending community music festivals or programs that incorporate diverse musical styles and reflect your community's multicultural makeup. These festivals are likely to attract people from different cultures, allowing you to learn not only through music but also from direct interactions with others.

Some music festivals that celebrate cultural traditions in the USA include:

Emotional well-being

There's a strong relationship between music and psychology. Holding community music therapy can evoke positive emotions like joy and excitement by stimulating the release of happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. 

Typically, when people are happy, they're more likely to be supportive and engage with each other positively, fostering stronger communities. Further, emotional regulation reduces the risk of conflict escalation, allowing harmonious social connections to develop within a community. 

Community music therapy sessions can also reduce stress among community members by providing a safe, familiar space. They can even promote emotional expression and communication, facilitating a deeper understanding of each other's feelings. And people are likely to be more accommodating and supportive when they understand each other. 

Civic participation

Numerous activists have, over the years, used music to bring people together and encourage the fight for social change. For example, Martin Luther used "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" during the Reformation movement to encourage the fight for religious freedom. 

Bob Dylan also created "The Times They Are A-Changin'" to bring people fighting for social justice together. And The Beatles used "Revolution" to inspire social change and spread anti-war messages across communities. While the fights and generations keep changing, music remains the only constant.

Today, music can increase civic engagement by getting people to care about common causes. Purposeful music can inspire community members to volunteer, attend city council meetings, and support local initiatives, promoting effective community building. 

Examples of how to use music for community engagement

Want to boost community engagement through music? You don't have to be a performer or music industry professional to do so. There are plenty of simple, creative ways to build a music community.

Organize community music events

Community music events are the perfect places to foster community relationships. They not only attract diverse groups of people but also loosen them up enough to encourage interactions, setting the stage for social bonds to form. 

You can organize music events like concerts featuring local musicians and bands, open mic nights, dance parties, or simple listening sessions to enjoy new music. To host a successful music event:

  • Research what type of music members of the community enjoy: This will let you know which playlists or artists to include in your line-up. Ideally, there should be a mix of different genres to engage people with varying musical tastes and encourage attendance. 
  • Secure a venue: Consider its accessibility, capacity, and cost. Find a venue near your target community members, large enough to handle expected attendees, and within your budget. 
  • Engage local artists: Pitch your idea to local musicians and bands to attract their fanbase to your event and, of course, offer entertainment. 
  • Market the event: Let community members know when, where, and why you want to host the music event. Do this several months or weeks before the event to allow attendees to fit it into their schedules. 

Set up public music workshops

Learning environments can foster collaboration and create a sense of community among students. So partner with local music schools or community music programs to offer music workshops for members of your community. You can offer lessons on songwriting, playing musical instruments, music production, vocal techniques, and even dancing. 

Be sure to work with professional instructors who know how to cater to both young people and older adults, as well as skilled musicians and beginners, since you'll likely get a mix of all of them. The last thing you want is an environment that makes anyone feel out of place — if this happens, they may be unwilling to attend future workshops. 

Create interactive music spaces

Interactive spaces can encourage music participation and improve members' experiences. So add interactive music installations to public spaces to encourage communal play and exploration. 

Depending on your budget and space availability, you can choose permanent projects like creating an open-access musical playground in your community or temporary ones like bringing in sound sculptures. 

Invite people from all backgrounds and of all ages to promote community involvement in the interactive spaces. To spread the word, you can collaborate with community centers, local schools, and religious organizations. 

Offer guidance on how to use the music spaces to ensure everyone gets the most out of their experience. Also, collect feedback from community members to determine what you should improve to encourage even more involvement and engagement. 

Facilitate music education programs

You can also initiate or join music education programs targeted toward those in the community to promote interactions among music enthusiasts. 

If there's no program in your community, you can look for sponsors to offer funding, partner with local schools, or urge community members to come together and support the project. With proper funding, you can hire qualified music teachers, buy equipment, and even lease a practice space. 

If there are existing programs in your community, volunteer to support ongoing engagement efforts. Depending on your skills, you can teach music or help with other tasks, like marketing or event management. 

Teach others about online music platforms

Unfortunately, physical events and music classes may not always be possible because of time, location, and budget constraints. If this happens, you can extend your music engagement efforts by leveraging social media and digital platforms. 

Consider using virtual concert platforms like Twitch for your events, as well as online music class platforms like Trala to help members improve their musical skills. 

Assess each potential platform first to ensure it's the right choice. Some factors to consider include:

  • Ease of use: Find a user-friendly platform that makes it easy for community members to participate in your music activities or classes. 
  • Interactivity: Remember, you want to boost community engagement, so your chosen platforms should have interactive features like live chats or video calls. 
  • Professional instructors: This is a crucial consideration for music class platforms. Choose one with reliable, qualified music teachers to ensure students get proper instruction and improve their musical skills. 
  • Reviews: The last thing you want is to recommend a platform that only frustrates members of the community. So go through each platform's user or student reviews and choose one that is highly recommended. 

When you settle on a platform, make sure you teach people how to use it for maximum engagement. 

Start strengthening the heart of your community through music

We can’t overstate the power of music in community building and engagement. It can encourage social interactions, cohesion, cultural understanding, emotional regulation, and community participation, ultimately resulting in stronger communities. 

To enjoy these benefits and more, find ways to bring music into your community. You can schedule music events and workshops, build interactive music spaces, and even leverage learning resources like Trala. 

Trala provides a wide range of features that can support your community-building and engagement efforts. Not only do Trala students learn from world-class teachers, but they also get to connect with one another through Discord forums and recitals. 

Get started with Trala today to engage and connect with your community through music!

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