My Rotary: Sing, sing a song

My Rotary is a collection of stories about the Rotary experience, including the foundations of Rotary and our personal experiences of Rotary. If you have a story that you would like to contribute, email Dan Romanchik.

I know that this may be anathema to some of you, but one of the reasons I love attending our Ann Arbor Rotary Club meetings is the singing. Yes, some of the songs are kind of cheezy, and yes, hitting that high note in the National Anthem is getting harder and harder, but it’s still a lot of fun. In fact, I’m always a little puzzled and a little disappointed when I visit a Rotary Club and am told, “We’re not a singing club.”

Singing at Rotary Club meetings goes back to the very beginning. According to Past RI President Cliff Dochterman, in his The ABCs of Rotary, Harry Ruggles, the fifth man to join Paul Harris in forming the first Rotary club in Chicago enjoyed singing.

Dochterman writes, “At an early meeting of the fledgling group, Harry jumped on a chair and urged everyone to join him in a song. Group singing soon became a traditional part of each Rotary meeting. The custom spread to many of the clubs in the United States and is still a popular fellowship activity in the Rotary meetings of such diverse countries as Australia, Japan, Nigeria, New Zealand and Canada. Some clubs sing a national song as the formal opening of the meeting. Social singing, however, is seldom found in the Rotary clubs in Europe, South America and Asia.”

Singing is good for you, too

According to a 2013 article in Time magazine, singing is not only fun, it’s good for you. This article claims that group singing has been scientifically proven to lower stress, relieve anxiety, and elevate endorphins. “Study after study,” the author writes, “has found that singing relieves anxiety and contributes to quality of life.”

The website More Singing Please, says, “Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. ” Their page on the benefits of singing lists more than 32 benefits, including exercising the lungs, improved posture, and increased self-esteem.

With so many benefits, who wouldn’t want to sing? If you perhaps feel a bit self-conscious about joining in, my advice is to just say to heck with it, straighten up your shoulders, take a deep breath, and belt it out. Remember: practice makes perfect. My table-mates might sometimes disagree, but I think that my singing has improved since I joined Rotary.