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Leveraging creative potential during a pandemic

Queen’s University researchers respond to a critical need with unique music program Rise, ShineSing!

The Accessible and Inclusive Music Theatre project, led by Queen’s researchers Julia Brook and Colleen Renihan, is embarking on its second year of investigating how participation in an accessible online music and movement program can improve well-being and foster creativity, particularly among older adults.  

The first year of the program Rise, ShineSing! included three weeks of in-person sessions at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts which saw sessions of 50 people in the rehearsal hall, singing and moving together, followed by 12 weeks of online sessions over Zoom. 

We came together as a team to consider what a collaborative approach to these wicked problems of ageism in music theatre, loneliness, and a lack of understanding about the creative potential of people throughout the lifespan could yield,” says Dr. Renihan, whose research investigates issues of voice, cultural memory, and empathy in opera and music theatre. 

After moving online due to the pandemic, Drs. Brook and Renihan decided to continue the program, based on its early success. 

We determined this program filled a significant need in the community,” says Dr. BrookWe are both community-minded musicians and scholars, wanting to work and make beautiful change in our local community here in Kingston. We believe in the flexibility that music theatre offers with its combination of music, story, and movement. We believe that one can thrive and be creative across the lifespan. 

Dr. Renihan adds for the second year of the program they are aiming to share their findings through publication, public presentations, and through the formation of a national network of researchers and creators with similar goalsThey are also interested in the effects of participation in this kind of creative work on well-being. Finally, with the pandemic, they are investigating the surprising gains of engaging in performance and creation over Zoom. 

The second year of the program includes participants from outside of Kingston, including some people from long-term care homes, recognizing the need in this community for interaction, connection, and artistic stimulation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During each weekly session, participants engage in a series of vocal and movement warm-ups, and sing and dance to a repertoire of folk, musical theatre, and popular hits. 

“Our project aims to find ways to help people of all ages and abilities to leverage their creative and artistic potentials in a digital space,” says Dr. Brook, whose research area focused on music education. 

This research project is currently recruiting participants of all ages and abilities: No previous singing or dancing experience is required, and no digital savvy beyond clicking the Zoom link is needed. 

To find out more, sign up for a weekly newsletter and get the Zoom link to participate by visiting the project’s website at www.riseshinesing.ca. 

The Accessible and Inclusive Music Theatre Project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and the Dan School of Drama and Music at Queen’s University.