Article by Caroline Cooney | Photography by Kristina McComas | Owl Staff
As she anxiously sits on a hard, plastic seat while she waits for Demi Lovato to come out on stage, Sarah Meyerl, HCC student, scans the sea of fans below her. For the last few months, Meyerl has anticipated this moment where she is surrounded by thousands of strangers, and yet she feels accepted and at home.
Not only will she be able to dance to the music and sing the lyrics that have helped her through difficult times, but she will be able to instantly connect with the other fans through the music pumping out of the speakers.
Meyerl acknowledges the power that listening to live music can have on her happiness. “Being able to spend a small amount of time with people who love the same artist as me is such an amazing feeling and makes me feel like I have a second family,” she says.
Researchers have discovered that this stimulating environment can have a positive effect on someone’s health.
According to a 2018 study conducted by Patrick Fagan, a behavioral science expert and Associate Lecturer at Goldsmith’s University, being exposed to at least 20 minutes of live music every two weeks could increase the longevity of someone’s life by nine years.
Whether the fans are dancing to a hit song or begging for an encore, researchers from Montreal’s McGill University found that the production of dopamine can increase up to nine percent and can positively affect mood. According to Kaitlyn Buza, another HCC student, this overwhelming happiness is what causes fans to continuously attend concerts.
“It’s almost as if you’re on a high because when you’re there, you’re only focused on the artists, their music, and how you feel,” she says. “When I go to concerts, I like to just close my eyes sometimes and pay attention to how I can feel the bass shaking my body and pay attention to how the artist’s portrayal of the lyrics makes me feel.”
Not only can listening to music increase an individual’s happiness, but it can also lead to an improvement in his or her physical and mental health. According to Bill Messenger, the author of The Power of Music, people with severe Alzheimer’s disease can regain some of their cognitive functions with the assistance of music therapy.
“When Alzheimer’s is more advanced, patients usually remain stationary and don’t talk. With music, I have seen them move to the music and even begin singing,” Messenger says. Although the reason is unclear, he believes the music can conjure up “a more permanent part of our personality” that was not affected by the disease.
Although fans can listen to an artist’s songs in the comfort of their home for a far lower price, experiencing the social atmosphere of concerts is often “associated with stronger positive experiences” and fulfills one’s desire to feel accepted in a group, according to an Australian research study conducted at Deakin University.
Without Meyerl’s ability to connect with other fans through the love of an artist, she would have never met her friends through social media.
“Although they live hundreds of miles away, they are my absolute best friends on Earth, and they have stuck by my side through hell even though we’ve only met a number of times,” she says. She believes that sharing their love for Demi Lovato and seeing her live several times together has strengthened their friendship.
Similar to Meyerl, Buza also believes concerts have a unique atmosphere that brings everyone closer. “You and everyone else that came to the concert are coming together as a unified whole, and you’re able to mentally and emotionally connect with them and the artists on stage,” she says. “A song can be important to each individual for different reasons and hearing a song that’s transformed your life in some way, shape, or form is indescribable.”
Not only can fans benefit from attending concerts, performing music can also have an impact on the musicians themselves. According to the research study at Deakin University, performing music can “encourage self-exploration, emotional expression, self-esteem and confidence” in the performer.
As a musician, HCC alum Sheldon Kinsler has experienced a positive impact on his physical and mental health since he has started performing live shows. “I have terrible stage fright, but once I start playing, I start having fun and get super happy,” he says. “Even when there’s no one in the crowd, playing music gives me an unexplainable feeling that can only be described when you feel it yourself.”
According to HCC music professor Benny Russell, live performances provide a more personal experience for everyone involved. For example, while recently performing at a show, Russel felt overwhelmed by the crowd’s positive response to a song he was playing.
“I’ve been noticing people’s reaction to music all of my life,” he says. “If I can be part of making someone happy, it’s worth the sacrifice made in order to play music.”
This element of surprise at concerts provides each individual with a unique experience and leaves long-lasting memories for the performer. “I was on tour in North Carolina, and I played at a bar that was packed with kids who all knew our music and were dancing and moshing. They went crazy, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had playing,” Kinsler says. “I love when fans are into the music.”
As Demi Lovato finishes her final song on stage, Meyerl stops and tries to capture everything in her mind. She can barely feel her throat after singing so loudly, and her legs ache from constantly jumping for the last hour and a half.
Although the concert is over, Meyerl now has a new memory that will not only bring her happiness when she thinks of it but has also increased the longevity of her life.