Music may be the food of love, but it is also a universal way to connect with others.
Music is a great way to find like minded people in your area. There is plenty of research linking making music with improved cognition, connection between the hemispheres of the brain, and language processing, but music may help us read emotions in sounds and in each other. Whether you want to make music or just listen to it, here are some ways that music can help connect us.
Join a Community Chorus, Band, or Orchestra
Communities large and small have volunteer ensembles. Some require you to audition, but many welcome everyone. Maybe you like to play the cello or sing, a quick internet search can help you locate a group. In a quick search I found over ten Barbershop choruses in the Chicago area. Not a fan of those ringing tones and vocal embellishments? There are community orchestras, bands, and choruses to suit every kind of musician. Here is a link to a searchable list of community choruses and one for bands and orchestras. Keep looking beyond these lists and find an ensemble right for you.
Irish Music Sessions
Another open community of musicians can be found playing Irish music. Here is a situation where you CAN play, but you can also just grab a beverage of your choice at the bar and sit and listen to the music. There are Irish music sessions around the country. Check at your local Irish pub. They may be hosting a session or may know where to find one. You can find a traditional music session nearby by checking here at The Session.
Host a sing-along! Whether it’s the winter holidays and the requisite carols or a gathering of fans of Mumford and Sons, getting folks together to sing. You can sing a capella ala the Sacred Harp and shape note singing, you can play along with a melodica, ukulele, piano, or guitar, or you can lasso a friend with some skills. You might all like Little Feat, you might enjoy the songs of the great folk music revival of the 60s, or you might gather around the piano and sing the songs of World War II. Do you have the means for a backyard fire? Buy some marshmallows, light a fire, and invite the neighbors in to sing around the campfire. Whatever your musical bent, find some friends to sing along.
Do you like an emerging artist who might want to play out in your town? Do you have space for some extra chairs? You might consider hosting a house concert. House concerts connect fans of an artist in a small venue. It can connect an artist personally with their fans, bring some revenue directly to the artist, and deliver a room full of people who share a common interest. Hosting a house concert is not for everyone, but if a houseful of folks doesn’t make you nervous, then this may be an avenue to explore.
Potluck with a Song or a Story
Yes, you knew I would get around to a potluck eventually. Imagine a Sunday brunch. Imagine that along with bagels and lox your guests bring a song or a story to share. It can be a small and casual bit of music or story or significant and well rehearsed. What it is does not matter. Only the sharing matters.
music lessons aren’t just for kids. Here in Chicago the Old Town School of Folk Music teaches group lessons from jazz to classical, and yes, folk. I took classes there on the music of the Sephardim. I learned new songs (in Ladino) and sang with a wonderful group of people who I would never have met otherwise.
Contra Dance is another way to enjoy old-timey music without making it. Find a group near you and dance or just listen to the fiddle and mandolin. Best of all, you can go alone! No need for a partner as these dances form pairs and lines as part of the figures.
Church choirs can be a great place to share faith and song. Becoming a part of your spiritual community’s choir is different for every church, but if that is a comfortable space for you, gathering to practice and to sing at services can be a wonderful way to connect.
Buy season tickets to the opera. My sister and I chose the cheapest series in the seats farthest from the stage. People in the cheap seats are there for the music and not to be seen, so for a comparative little we heard beautiful music and got to know all the people around us. They had the same series we did, and opera intermissions are long, so we would share snacks, stories, and impressions of the previous act.
Whatever music you enjoy, there are others out there with whom to enjoy it. You can gather them to you or find them already gathered. Make some music. Tap your feet. Sing a song!