Singing is fun, even when it’s not in the rain


It’s something we cannot seem to avoid. We do it in private, and in public — in showers,… It’s something we cannot seem to avoid. We do it in private, and in public — in showers, bathrooms, cars and even the Cathedral of Learning.

Popular culture is filled with it. Television, movies, the newest music — all of it sounds the same note, and people watch it without skipping a beat.

But why do we sing?

John Goldsmith, the Director of the Heinz Chapel choir and director of Choral services at Pitt, has spent most of his life teaching himself and others how to sing, and he knows that we can’t live without it.

“It’s part of our lives, we just have to do it,” he said.

“It’s like oxygen. There is something about singing that soothes the soul. It nourishes you,” he added.

Goldsmith attended at Capitol University in Columbus, Ohio, which was a catholic school with a strong conservatory. Then he went to Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.

After that he got “the college jobs” and is now in his 17th year at Pitt.

When we spoke he mentioned that only one student in the Heinz Chapel choir was a Music major, the rest being a diverse showcase of University majors.

Justin Fiore, the president of the Men’s Glee Club at Pitt, agreed, estimating that about 80 percent of the people in the club were majoring in anything from engineering to English.

Fiore said that singing offers a lot to people of any academic persuasion, whether it is math or literature.

“I think where those intersections meet is a pretty interesting territory,” Fiore said. “Because you have so many people of different backgrounds you meet people of other majors that you might not have met otherwise,” he added.

But singing isn’t just restricted to concerts and performances. I went into the William Pitt Union one day and encountered a group of students from Ambassadors For Christ singing songs.

I sat down and listened to them, and one of them was nice enough to hand me a packet of what they were singing. They might not have been the best singers, but they sang with feeling and they were clearly enjoying it.

Dean Root, the current chair of the Music Department, described to me how the simple act of singing can change engage a person.

“Singing is an act that involves the mind and the whole body. It affects your whole sense of self,” Root said.

Root’s career at Pitt is inextricably tied in with music. After he received a Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana, he eventually found himself working at Pitt, mostly with the Stephen Foster Memorial materials.

“Singing … (he takes a sip from his mug). It’s really all about singing, that’s what drives them,” Root explained.

“People come in and mention a certain song, sometimes with a tear in their eye. They say that this reminds them of their mother or a difficult time in their life.”

Amanda Christian from Sounds of Pleasure, a female a cappella group, said that singing is “like an adrenaline rush after working out” and acts as an emotional outlet.

Kim Unterburger, also part of the group, said that singing transports you to a different place entirely.

“You can just be completely taken away from where you are,” she said.

Which seems to be a big reason why I see people singing on campus, whether it is while walking to class, listening to their iPod or performing an impromptu song or two with friends.

“It’s like people need a soundtrack to their life and they like to sing along,” Christian said.

That would go a long way in explaining why people sing where they do. Root admits to singing in the car and Unterburger believes that most people enjoy singing along when they drive.

“When they get in their car and blast the music and sing and not have to worry about anyone else, it’s freeing,” she said, which leads into why people also sing in the shower.

“Anyone sounds good singing in the shower, the acoustics rock.”

It seems that singing is omnipresent, and that most of us are exposed to it at a very young age. Most of the singers I spoke to agreed that they all had an interest in singing from an early age.

Ryan Barlow, vice president of the Glee Club said that his interest in singing “just seemed to fall into place.”

“I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said.

Goldsmith believes that singing stimulates the mind.

“It massages or soothes some part of the brain that gives you pleasure,” he said.

But it seems that singing in life is almost as important as anything else, and that our love of singing, whether its in private or in public, is deeply embedded in our sense of self.

Dean Root suggested a reason why many of us take comfort in song.

“How do we comfort babies? We sing to them.”