Annamaria Koerling interview’s Xann Schwinn of Biiah.

Published by AdminCP on

What is your mission at Biiah?

To create access to music for all.

What you have learnt about the benefits of music?
Making music is an intrinsic part of the human experience.

It’s how we communicate, bond as large groups, and heal. The research speaks for itself: music is good for our mental, physical and social health.

In our own work, we’ve seen music bond the most surprising work colleagues regardless of experience, seniority, or age. We’ve had multiple people stay in their jobs because of the immense value music added to the every day, and in our largest social biofeedback study to date, we saw a physiological decrease in stress after only 10 minutes of singing.

Music can be harnessed as a tool for good and has profound opportunities for groups to be more collaborative and more productive, whether that be friends, strangers, colleagues, or families.

How do you work with family groups?

We take a bespoke approach to our work with family groups. Bonding adults through music is an approach we have spent years crafting, studying, and maturing (both individually, and as a group). We uniquely adapt our approach on a case-by-case basis to the challenges that a specific group might be facing. 

In a dynamic group with layers of history, like a family, we take a mixed approach with both group workshops in addition to 1:1 sessions with each of the members. 

Music can be used as a salve for the toughest of situations. Helping a group find harmony, listening to each other, helping folks find confidence in their voice, creating a sturdy foundation for the future, and building common ground.

Is there music which works across all generations?

Absolutely! A lot of intuitive selection goes into our process (a skill built from decades of experience working with groups of different shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds). Candidly, it’s more about how the coach implements their approach in the space than the music itself. We’ve seen equal impact in 16th-century polyphony as we have in gospel, pop, and live improvisation. 

What about family-owned businesses, how does music apply in the workplace?

Humans are… just that, at the end of the day, whether we are working with families, strangers or teams, music wields an equally applicable power of cohesion. Our team has worked with businesses all over the world (with small teams, and also Fortune 500 companies), using music as a tool for collaboration, productivity and positivity. 

We give teams activities to take away with them to continue the work we’ve started in the room. In-person workshops can be metamorphic, but music can and should continue to be used on your own both to enhance productivity but also as a vehicle to promote positive mood changes when needed. Work can be stressful, and music can be its discerning balancer.

Is this something that must be experienced live in person to have an impact?

Not necessarily. Nothing will ever replace the in-person, but the truth is, our virtual programming has had an incredible impact on teams. In this increasingly hybrid world, it’s important we adapt and create new models of access to valuable tools. 

Virtual programming is not only impactful on folks who can’t otherwise get to a live in-person session but for busy, globetrotters we’ve seen value in these social touch points as profound. 

Is this the gift that keeps on giving? Why does music work better than other activities?

Yes, absolutely. Music is built into us, it’s a natural part of our communication and therapeutic toolkit. The tools we give to the groups we work with are just access points they can continue to use again and again. Our job is simply to create a new vehicle for collaboration and productivity to a thing most people are already utilising probably without even realising it. 

Music is particularly powerful because we all have access to it (through our voices, our hands, our feet) and it triggers physiological changes in us. Endorphins and oxytocin levels increase, cortisol decreases, and our heartbeats and breath can sync, bonding us on a deeper level than other activities. Researchers call it the ‘ice-breaker effect’. Music can be a vehicle for communication where words otherwise convolute our meaning.

And the long-term impacts on well-being, self-confidence, and group cohesion are well documented.

What does the future hold for the team at Biiah?

We’re excited to contribute to the growing body of research that exists to exhibit the powerful impacts that music can have on our lives. By integrating technology into our programmes, we’ve begun to concretely move the topic of music away from simply being considered ‘an artform’ (which can often be pushed into the category of a ‘nice-to-have’ activity) to being thought of as absolutely critical to our ability to thrive.  We’re on a mission to not only make music accessible to all but to make it accessible as a vehicle for good health.

How do you encourage those who are non-musical or lack confidence to take part in your programs?

Helping you find the power in your own unique voice is our speciality! We think about the human voice as an intrinsic part of who we are and how we communicate. We build confidence in the voice in the same way you would with anything else: leaning into our strengths and practice. By working with smaller groups, we are able to get to know each person as an individual thus enabling us to empower each unique voice in a bespoke and powerful way. With the right guidance, support, and song choice everything becomes possible.