Andrea Lynn Cianflone believes in the power of music to transcend peoples’ hearts and minds. The soprano, who lives in New York City, has spent her entire life engaged in music and has sung in a wide variety of venues, from churches to state fairs to NFL fields (for the National Anthem) to Carnegie Hall.
Aside from her busy schedule of performances, she has been devoting her talents to a special cause. She took the tools that she has learned as an opera singer/concert artist and has crafted the Sing4Wellness program, part of Be Delighted, which integrates music listening, participant singing, movement, and personal development tools.
The concerts and presentations are for anyone, but Cianflone targets especially those in the audience who are hurting. Statistics suggest that the percentage of Americans who are suffering from major depression and anxiety has been growing in recent years. Cianflone wants to help.
Depression is a problem she first began noticing when she came to New York about 10 years ago, hoping to “make it big” in the music world.
“I had met a lot of people from all walks of life through my work as a singer, and it just seemed that depression was so common,” Cianflone said in an interview. “I kept asking myself the question, ‘Why does the world seem so depressed?’ I then learned that the World Health Organization found major depression to be the leading cause of disability worldwide. Why is this?”
She was impressed to learn of a medical research study in which singers in a choir were found to have had a significantly increased blood level of an anti-stress hormone during rehearsal.
“So I thought, why not bring this to the public in a way that we can talk about singing as an additional tool that can help people’s wellness,” she recalled.
Cianflone is careful to note that for a serious illness like depression, merely singing cannot take the place of professional help. “I’ve never stated on my website or anywhere that people should go off their medications cold turkey or anything like that. Still, the health benefits of singing are many, including the release of pain-relieving endorphins, strengthening immunity, to building confidence and community, to name just a few,” she said.
She believes she can help give people the ability to sing in a way that lifts their spirits.
“I also believe a lot of this depression could be coming from a spirit of unforgiveness,” she said. “Part of the messaging in this project has really been to speak to that area,” teaching the power of forgiveness.
“The hope is that people will go home and use this as a tool for their own wellness on a day to day basis,” she continued. “If a person feels stressed out, he or she can just step away for a moment, even if not vocally singing, and be reminded that each person has an ‘internal song.’ That breath, that breath of life that God gave us, coming in and out of the body, has an impact on our health in so many ways.”
She has also offered a myriad of programs that range from opera to classical music, jazz, and pop. One program that encompasses all these styles is called “Two Loves,” which explores musically the themes of Agape and Eros, two of the types of love that C.S. Lewis speaks of in his book The Four Loves.
Her plans for the future include reaching out to particular segments of the population that may be at a higher risk for depression such as military and law enforcement personnel, trauma survivors, and even her fellow artists.
“Artists are at risk for depression due to a slew of factors that have impacted the entertainment industry, ranging from a negative working environment, bullying, sexual harassment, to a culture of criticism, irregular working hours, and low wages,” she said. She is working on developing an annual arts symposium where artists can come together in community for support, to discuss industry issues, and devise applications to solve some key objectives, such as medical insurance and emergency relief funds, remuneration policies, and housing support.
“I believe there is a direct correlation between the flourishing of arts in a society and the health of a country,” she said, “simply because less time for artistic activities means less leisure time, rest, or time for reflection, and positive messaging which the arts has the ability to provide.”