The Emotional Connection: Music and Happiness


Along with being an instrument for the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities, music has been linked to happiness in both musicians and listeners. But despite many people playing instruments as children, 91 percent of them abandon their instruments by the time they are out of high school.

“For some of them, it was a huge passion point,” says Carla Sullivan, Marketing & Diversity Awareness Director at Daniel’s Music Foundation. “But because they weren’t going to become a professional drummer or sing at Carnegie Hall, they walked away from it.”

At DMF, the Trush family saw the connection between music and the initial community they served and wondered how the general public could lead lives without music. They later expanded the foundation’s musical offerings, providing the opportunity for people of all abilities to experience the joy of music.

“It didn’t make sense to us because there are scientific studies that show that music activates more parts of the brain than any other activity,” says Daniel’s father, DMF Co-founder Ken Trush. “It’s inherently good for anyone no matter how they participate.”

People are looking for ways to relax, create, and connect, but many are not turning to music because there is a stigma of having to be a great performer. But music has incredible personal relevance that can be tied to happiness, and at DMF, happiness is actually a key measure of success.

“One day my father asked me how I wanted to measure success here,” says Daniel Trush, the inspiration behind the foundation. “He was thinking of all these metrics. And I just said, we’ll measure our success by a smile-o-meter. So now we measure our success by the number of smiles that we get.” 

The newly launched DMF Live Jam speaks to the relationship between music and joy too. Once a month, those who attend the Live Jam are separated into two groups – one to take a 30-minute voice class and the other to form a band. No musical experience is needed as long as you are open to exploring your creativity. After half an hour, the two classes come together, having each learned the same song, and perform as one. 

“The power of music is undeniable,” says Carla. “People feel confident. It’s fun. They have the opportunity to experience music in a low-pressure environment.”

Other than scoring points on the smile-o-meter, the leadership team at DMF is working toward one other major goal: to make 91 percent of all people musicians, flipping the percentage of people who abandon instruments on its head.

“What we believe here as our mission is that people should discover the joy of music in their lives,” says Carla, “and you don’t have to be at Carnegie Hall to do that. Just have it in your life.”