Music and life have so many parallels. There’s a lot to be learned from making music. Here are a few gems.

Be Here Now

Photo with zen garden with green plants and buddha sculptureSome people come to Sing Portland because it is therapeutic for them. Others say it is the highlight of their week. I’ve heard people say “When I sing I get a break from all the things happening in my life”. Or “I come to choir for two stress-free hours.” One singer said “When I sing I get in touch with something much larger than myself.” I’ve even heard “Singing saved my life”.  Somehow I think it has something to do with being in the moment when you sing.

Recently I learned about the work of Jill Purce.  When she was interviewed by Deepak Chopra she stated it so clearly: when you sing (or chant) you cannot have any regrets about the past, nor fears about the future.

When you sing you can only be in the moment.

Perspectives and priorities shift when all you focus on is that one note you’re singing right then and there. Singing and being in the moment gets you in touch with who you are in your essence.  Sophia Efthimiou calls it “singing yourself home” If you have 20 minutes to spare – here’s a wonderful TedX talk by her.

The Gift of Conflict and Resolution

Harmonizing with fellow human beings is scrumptious. Singing together teaches you to create beautiful chords.  Which chords do you like to resonate with? The consonant or dissonant ones?

Harmony (consonance) sounds peaceful. I personally love hanging out in a so-called dissonant interval. The two notes that rub, twinge; they make me alert. I adore the second (that’s what it’s called when two people sing adjacent notes. People singing “do” and “re” at the same time). There’s something delicious about pure dissonance. It takes me elsewhere. It builds a desire for resolution.

Listen to the first few notes of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Listen how the strings clash at 1:27, and the voices at 2:20. It makes the resolution afterwards only yummier, doesn’t it? The first movement, called Dolorosa (pain, grief, sorrow) is filled with dissonant combination of notes. The second movement is much perkier. Which is a welcome shift, right?

It’sThe yin and yang symbol a ying-yang picture. Consonance and dissonance need each other. The one glorifies the other. Kinda like making up after a fight; gets you in a sweet spot. The nice thing about fighting is that it allows us to chose peace again. Am not justifying war here, just pointing out that harmony is a dance of consonance and dissonance.  Did you know that in Greek mythology the Goddess Harmonia was born from an adulterous affair between the Goddess Aphrodite and the war God Ares???

Musical pieces with only harmonious intervals (octaves, fifths, thirds) are missing the beauty that comes from variety. Compositions with only dissonant intervals, with only the rubs and twinges, make us feel uncomfortable. After a while you’ll crave harmony again.  And low and behold, I bet you’ll end up craving dissonance when the music is only consonant. Too sweet. We need both. Wow! Whoever made the world thought this through.

What a gift that we can choose consonance or dissonance, or any balance between the two. We have the freedom to dance with any dosage of consonance and dissonance we’d like. We can just get the right amount for the moment, that mood, that situation, that relationship. It may  make your next disagreement more enjoyable, knowing you’ll find your way to consonance again. Are you getting a different perspective on the dissonance in your life??? Or am I getting carried away here?

When you sing in a group you get to find out where your comfort zone is. Where your areas of growth are. What is beauty and harmony for you? How do you relate to major and minor music? How comfortable are you with risk taking, surrendering, being in the unknown?

Brush Up on Your Social Skills

My friend Maria Olaya has a beautiful quote on her website from Jose Anonio Abreu, (founder of El Sistema)

“Whoever creates beauty by playing an instrument and generates musical harmony begins to understand from within what essential harmony is… human harmony.”

Large amounts of ducks and swans. A concept for 'The odd one out'Music teaches us all we need to know in life: When to listen or speak up. When to follow or lead. When to just go with the flow. When to wait and take action. When to stand in the front row, and when in the back. That there’s always room for improvement; the important part is to have fun on the way there. You can’t have a fun performance if you haven’t had fun rehearsing the music.

Music is like life. Once you get it, it’s simple.

I mean it! Music is a great teacher for life’s lessons. There is a right place and time to sing loud, soft, fast, slow, first, last, high, low, dark, light, etc. Do you have all the colors on your life’s palette?


Did you know every white piano key relates to a planet and color: C mars, D mercury, E jupiter, F venus, G saturn, A sun, B moon. Talk about cosmic music…

In the end it’s all about you. Being YOU.  Last spring three singers shared how singing with Sing Portland inspired them to follow their own hearts, to pursue what they are passionate about.  I promise, I didn’t lecture or give any inspirational talks. We just sang cool, beautiful and uplifting music.

When singing people are reminded of who they really are, and what their life’s work is, I can’t help but believe that earthly music gets us in touch with all that beautiful cosmic music we heard on our way down here.

What song are you singing today?