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Sing to My Soul: How Music Provides Inspiration, Motivation and Activation


Keith Vinson, the vice president of operations at the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, shares how music provides inspiration, motivation and activation – inspired by the Causenetic podcast episode, Sing to My Soul.

“Music brings us pleasure and releases our suffering. It can calm us down and pump us up. It helps us manage pain, run faster, sleep better and be more productive.” – Alex Dorman, author of “Healing at the Speed of Sound”

The Y is a place where people come together to connect and engage. The melody of music plays a significant role in the engagement of members. The powerful lyrics of a song or the rhythmic beats of the bass flowing through the speakers has a unique ability to join people together like nothing else on earth. All throughout the Y, music is used to bring together affinity groups to build community and unite people in the enjoyment of sound. This leads to the additional impetus to bring about a change in people’s attitude to workout.

Large group exercise classes pumping up the jams promote the power of music and group harmony. Music is the stimulant for creating an environment for motivation that draws people to flood popular group exercise classes. A good class is swayed by the music played. It takes over your body in a mesmerizing way that governs the frame to move to the sound. There is truly little that is more fun than exercising and getting your groove on.

From the pulsing thumbing sounds of hip hop or the singable melodies of pop, music has undeniable inspirational power that drives people back to classes to see their favorite instructor multiple times a week. Even those with two left feet discover a way to catch the rhythm of the instruction and find the confidence to stay motivated to regularly attend classes. We all know music promotes a sensation that makes our heads bob, toes tap and hands clap, but scientist do not have a basis for the originality of dance and its close connection to music.

For years, a core argument in many Ys across the country is what station to set the radio on; rock ‘n roll, hip hop, country, gospel, pop or rap. Everyone has a unique choice of what gets them amped up to workout. The technology of headphones and ear buds has shifted the way the sound waves of music flows through the ear up to the brain and informs the body and mind to be energized to exercise.

A 2010 study led by sport psychologist C. I. Karageorghis stated, “Music can improve athletic performance in two ways: it can either delay fatigue or increase work capacity.” According to this study, the effect of music leads to higher-than-expected levels of endurance, power, productivity or strength.

Knowing the power of music, what can be done to change the feel of a facility or program? First impressions mean a lot. People who come to the Y are there to move. Help them get into the groove with dynamic music upon arrival. Silence in the lobby is not an option. Music has the influence to impact a members’ experience. They should be able to feel the vibe upon entering. The background music should cover the bustling crowd in the reception area to help people to have a calming or motivational disposition to prepare for their training.

Ensure the music connects with the demographic. If your crowd is predominantly seniors, consider playing music that unites them to their 20s or 30s. If your audience is younger, skip to pop or modern familiar music. Keep a fresh playlist and rotate the selection. There are plenty of options today. Guest will know if your playlist is repetitive. Hearing the same songs over and over gets annoying. You should plan to change up your playlist every three weeks on average. 

Things to know about playing music in a public setting:

  • Obtain a Public Performance License (PPL).
  • Agencies to purchase PPL: ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.
  • PPL must be in place to play copyrighted music.
  • Fines can be up to $150,000 per song played.

Let’s not leave out the experience you can provide for youth sports while playing music in the gym for basketball or on the field for soccer. This sets the tone for an exciting game day experience. Provide a professional-like atmosphere by thrusting out fan favorite songs through the sound system during pre-game and down times of a game. Play a team’s walk out song when they enter the field or the latest pop song during player introductions.

Take advantage of all the possibilities music offers you from inspiration and motivation to activation for people to have a wonderful encounter at your facility or in your programs. Gain a competitive advantage by utilizing music appropriately in all your areas. Use it right and you will develop a brand personality that will create loyal participation and meaningful connections.

Keith Vinson

Keith Vinson is the vice president of operations at the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. He and Rodrigua Ross, the vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at the Dallas Y host a weekly podcast called “Causenetic.” Check it out at ymcadallas.org/causenetic.

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