Sing Your Heart Out is a blog by Brooke Baker exploring community music-making, choirs & singing ensembles.  

Choirs as a Ladder toward an Exemplary Existence

In the 1930’s when the majority of thought leaders in the burgeoning field of psychology were caught up studying the broken and ailing, Abraham Maslow took a different approach. Seeking out humans he termed as “exemplary” Maslow developed the revolutionary concept of his eponymous Hierarchy of Needs. Represented as a pyramid built on a foundation of the elemental human requirements for basic survival needs (air, water, food and shelter) the next layer is safety and security, encompassing personal and financial security, health and well-being. Beyond that, the top layers of the pyramid are “Belonging and Love”, “Esteem” and finally “Self-Actualisation”

Participating in group singers offers individuals the unique opportunity to improve their skill level in a safe space, while also fulfilling our need to connect, as social animals. Being socially connected is essential to our survival. Though technology is increasingly allowing us greater independence, it’s woven into our DNA that being part of a clan or tribe is key to our survival.

Needs as Human Dimensions, for Singers

Group singing meets humans needs, as outlined in Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs.  The experience of participating in group music-making extends the offer of satisfying human needs at more than one level. Needs are met through the physical act of singing, the provisions in place to cater to house rehearsals, the social aspect of participation as part of a group as well as both emotionally and intellectually in the learning and performing of the music.


 Thinking, learning, decision making, values, beliefs, fulfillment, helping others. 

Hope, joy, curiosity, happiness,sense of achievement, feeling they belong, accepting Self.

Building relationships and communicating with others, being connected and part of community, feeling loved by others, knowing others need and rely on you.

Rehearsal space, temperature, fresh oxygen, community, appropriate seating.

Breathing, movement, circulation, food and drink.


Meeting singers needs, with Maslow's Hierarchy in mind

The very act of participating in the act of singing engages the body; breathing, movement, blood-flow; physiological needs. Singing as part of a group connects with a human’s love and belonging needs (e.g., an encouraging smile from the smile of the singer beside you, singing along with others the appeal of safe anonymity; and assurance there is no requirement to sing alone) At the same time, mechanisms are in place to meet singers’ environmental needs (e.g., a comfortable space with appropriate temperature and supply of oxygen, water available)

Interactions with the leader, singers around you offer sociocultural connection helping folks to feel welcome, directing them to an appropriate place to sit. The introduction of a new song offers an intellectual challenge, inviting singers to connect emotionally, engaging curiosity, happiness and unlocking sense of achievement.

Meeting singers "Higher" needs

When we consider the “higher” needs of Self-esteem & Self-actualisation (emotional, intellectual & spiritual needs) we see group singing offers opportunities with the content and context. Within any group of singers, individuals may experience different needs being met within the same interaction. The same song or activity may serve different needs for one individual, on different occasions.

Presenting singers with songs rich in meaning offers individuals the opportunity to consider how these relate to their personal beliefs and perspectives. When we present songs with meaning-filled content to the greater community we give singers a chance to consider their place in and connection to the greater world around them.

Leaving space for diversity

Consider joining a choir