Parkinson’s Choir

Parkinson’s Choir

What is a Parkinson’s choir and how is it different from other choirs?

Based on our recent research, the choir is specialized to focus specifically on improving vocal quality, facial expressiveness and emotion perception. It’s been found that people with Parkinson’s disease tend to have some difficulty producing facial expressions, even though the person is feeling all of their usual emotions on the inside. Sometimes this makes it difficult to communicate emotions to other people, and family members and friends can also sometimes be affected because they may have difficulty reading how the person is feeling at certain times.

The Parkinson’s choir involves singing both happy/upbeat songs and sad/slower songs while mirroring the choir director’s expressions for each of those emotions. Our previous research has shown that this mirroring activity helps people with Parkinson’s improve their facial expressiveness, vocal strength and emotional understanding.

Do I have to be a good singer?

Absolutely not! The choir is simply open to anybody with Parkinson’s disease who would like to sing in a choir and is interested in the benefits it may bring. A lot of members express these concern about being able to sing the first time around, but the choir ends up sounding fantastic! The main focus is on expressing the emotions of the song while singing, as this is what our research suggests will help strengthen all the muscles and brain connections that are needed for producing facial and vocal expressions, and to help understand other people’s emotions. The choir is intended to be a laid-back, enjoyable experience, but it’s quite likely you will come out of it a better singer, too!

What songs are sung?

We know it’s important to sing something you enjoy, that’s why choir directors love to hear your feedback about the kind of music that you like. They select both upbeat and slower songs that work well with expressing emotion and are also the most enjoyable for members to sing.

Can I participate in research at Ryerson University?

We are not currently running any studies involving a Parkinson’s disease choir.

Is there a local choir I can join?

A choir that was facilitated by the SMART Lab continues to run under choir director Paula Wolfson. For more information, please visit the website: Singing with Parkinson’s

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