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Ep.122 Discovering The Well-Being Benefits of Community Choirs with Sarah Summers


Joining Alexa this week is Sarah Summers, who is a musical director, choir leader and vocal health first aider based in Swindon, UK. Sarah runs four choirs, including one for unpaid carers and another for staff and retired employees of the Great Western Hospitals Trust. She is currently studying on the MA Vocal Health pathway with the Voice Study Centre and has published some of her work with the Singing for Health Network. Sarah’s research focus lies on the emotional well-being benefits and ethics of running a community choir.


  • Sunshine Singers is a daytime choir for anyone who wants to sing with others, regardless of ability or singing experience.  They sing well-known pop songs from all eras, in a relaxed environment where all voices are valued. Harmonies are taught to those who wish to have a challenge. Singers of all abilities are catered for within this nurturing environment.
  • The Carers Choir is for people who are caring for family members or those who have sadly lost the person they are caring for. People come to the choir for respite and to get some time to themselves. In this environment, they can talk to and sing with people going through similar experiences to them.
  • As part of her MA at the Voice Study Centre, Sarah has researched the emotional benefits that choir members gain from singing together. From this, she was incredibly surprised to find the level of respect and understanding that carers showed towards each other, even after incredibly tough days looking after a loved one. 
  • Choirs are great for emotional well-being, and there are some studies that suggest that the choir leader plays a huge role in this. Sarah is looking to do further research to pinpoint what the choir leader can do to support and enhance the well-being of their community.
  • When running her choir for carers, Sarah works as hard as possible to be accommodating to each member’s needs so that they can stop worrying for a short time and relax. Sarah is also understanding and lenient with attendance and learning because of the carers’ other commitments. This is where the community spirit comes into play, with the more confident singers helping those who have had less time to learn the music.


‘It’s inspirational that they care for people at home but have this unlimited care for each other as well’

‘Carers come into the choir room with all of these things on their shoulders, so I try to make things as easy for them as possible’

‘Some people need help themselves to feel confident singing in the choir’

‘We try and change things to be uplifting when it needs to be’

‘Learning as you go is just as important for the choir leader as it is for the choir’

‘They come to the choir as much for the community as for the singing’



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Sarah Summers is a choir leader and vocal health first aider based in Swindon. As a leader of community choirs, her work is largely informed by her training in vocal health. Working with a choir of unpaid carers in her locality, Sarah has recently researched this specific community to explore how she can best cater to their needs as singers. Sarah also leads a choir of staff and retired employees of The Great Western Hospitals Trust. Sarah enjoys getting to know each choir community so that she can tailor her work appropriately. She is currently studying with the Voice Study Centre, as a student on the MA Vocal Health Pathway. Her research interests include how to ensure emotional well-being in choirs. Sarah has worked as an accompanist and musical director on local amateur theatre projects as well as teaching piano to private students. As a singing teacher, she works with adults to ensure healthy singing and build confidence.

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