Britta Gustafson: Party hardy and the healthy benefits of our Thursday night concerts | AspenTimes.com

Britta Gustafson: Party hardy and the healthy benefits of our Thursday night concerts

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

Perhaps Snowmass Villagers are happier and even healthier thanks to our weekly Free Summer Concert Series. It’s a fact: Sharing in the community experience of a live concert can do more than improve our mood, it can even improve our overall well-being!

The origins of our community concerts go back to the beginning of Snowmass Village when the first free, on-mountain summer concerts brought together locals and visitors alike. The Deaf Camp benefit, originally known as the Deaf Camp Picnic, was established in the 1960s and well-known artists such as John Denver, Jimmy Buffet, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Grateful Dead helped put Snowmass on the map as a concert-going destination. Free summer concerts became a favorite all through the 1970s but ebbed in the ’80s. In the early 1990s, the Free Summer Concert Series was brought back by the staff from the Mountain Dragon and they have been gaining momentum ever sense as a cherished community amenity and part of the heart of this town.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain,” sang Bob Marley. And it’s true, music is a proven pain-reducer. The benefits of listening to music span across most populations, for many reasons. Music decreases anxiety before, during and after surgical procedures and it can improve the well-being of patients with dementia. It can relieve pain and decrease nausea and vomiting, and it can reduce the symptoms of depression. Music can be beneficial for adults, children and infants, as music therapy is often used in psychiatric facilities, retirement communities, cancer treatment centers and neonatal intensive care units.

The same holds true, and can even be amplified, for people who attend live concerts.

“Listening to live music you love can increase your pain threshold,” explained Dr. Steven Eisenberg, an oncologist and internal medicine specialist, who is known as “The Singing Doctor” for his work writing songs for people living with cancer. His research shows that when you’re excited at a concert, your brain releases endorphins, the neurotransmitters that block pain.

And live concerts can even reduce our stress levels. The energy released by attending a musical performance offers a huge boost of dopamine into the brain — and that’s the happiness chemical! “Music’s the medicine of the mind,” John A. Logan, a 19th century politician famously once said.

According to one study published in February 2019 in the Journal of Public Health, live music also decreases the release of cortisol and other stress hormones. The researchers found the cortisol levels of 117 study participants dropped significantly after attending a concert.

“The physiologic result (of attending a concert) is a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate,” according to the study. Dopamine also is the emotional connection chemical and when we experience its release together with others, we connect on an almost molecular level.

“Music is the universal language of mankind,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said. And the first musical sound we hear or feel in this life is the rhythmic beating of our mother’s heart. Music connects us at our primal core, creating a strong sense of community bonding when experienced together. The modern powwows of the Southwest all begin with the rhythmic beating of drums to draw upon this communal sense of connection.

“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common,” said American novelist Sarah Dessen. Making an effort to go to a live concert and enjoy the music with other people is a positive way to connect to other people, which also is proven good for improved mental outlook and longevity. Eisenberg said, “You’re with your tribe, and you did what you had to in order to get there — whether it was lining up a babysitter, paying ticket prices or fighting traffic. You feel better if you are connected to other people, including people at a concert.”

And of course our Snowmass Village concerts keep us moving. From the kids dancing, hula-hooping and running up and down the hill, to the oldest concerts-goers who exercise just getting there, it’s a fun fitness opportunity too. Together, we all walk to and from, and then hike up and down Fanny Hill each Thursday night.

“And you may be moving half the time you’re at a concert, getting in shape and not even realizing it. Your diaphragm gets a workout when you cheer or sing,” Eisenberg added. And just listening to music has been proven to increase blood flow.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything,” Plato said.

In June 2016, a study by Deakin University in Australia took a deep look into the essence of how experiencing live music has been fundamental to all societies across the ages. It found that people who attended regular music concerts have an improved sense of mental well-being and are happier and healthier in their everyday lives. The findings revealed that engaging with live music by attending musical events was associated with a higher (sense of well-being) than for those who did not engage with music in these forms.

Here in Snowmass we don’t really need the testimonials of Bob Marley or Plato to motivate our desires to enjoy a free concert, but if you are still not convinced that music can change us, I’ll leave you with some John Lennon: “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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