We were interested to see these new music groups starting in Oxford, as they focus specifically on improving family relationships and wellbeing. The project founder, Bella Brown, gave us an insight into the new Oxford-based choirs and her MA research that kickstarted the project.
Raise Your Voice is a collection of four choirs running in Oxford - two ‘family choirs’ for children aged 4-11 with their adults, and two ‘moms and pops’ groups for expectant parents and their babies. Led by Bella Brown, the new groups aim to strengthen relationships within families through singing and play.
‘I was already running a choir in the school I taught in, as well as play therapy sessions focussed on attachment’, said Bella. ‘I was preparing for my MA dissertation and I wondered, could you improve family relationships through singing? We know that, generally, happier parents have happier children and that broadly improving mental wellbeing for parents improves things for children too.’
Two research projects were established to test Bella’s ideas, and these received encouraging feedback from families. Subjective indicators of wellbeing were measured, including how close the families felt, and how much they enjoyed each other’s time; the results were positive with, for example, 67% of adult participants stating they felt closer to their children after taking part.
Of course, there are already opportunities to participate in music-making in the county, but this project is interesting because it purposefully works towards wellbeing outcomes as a primary aim of the activity, for both adults and children working together. ‘Of course, singing’s a huge part of it but there’s other elements included. There’s always games at the beginning and end, activities that encourage teamwork and activities for families to do together in the time in between our meetings’. The choirs use a mixture of existing songs and new music created in the sessions and work towards performances too.
The choirs are running in two locations in Oxford, with plans to gradually expand Raise Your Voice outside of Oxford City as the groups grow.
We’ll be interested to see any further research that comes out of these groups! If you have activities or research into the arts and wellbeing of your own, please submit them to this page and join the conversation.