Logo for iHeartRadio’s Concerts for the Community, presented by Ally

While the impacts of COVID-19 continue to play out throughout the world, even as shops open and restaurants return to business, its effects are weighing heaviest on those on the frontlines — healthcare workers, essential employees, small business owners — and those who are often underrepresented in our society: racial minorities and people from underserved socio-economic groups.

That’s not right.

As a way to deliver hope during this difficult time, we teamed up with iHeart back in June to livestream iHeartRadio Concerts for the Community, presented by Ally: a series of three live and interactive concerts featuring top artists streamed directly to your home. And, as a way to give back to the community through the healing power of music, we also made a $100,000 donation to United Way Worldwide’s Invisible Problems Campaign and the Musicians On Call COVID Relief Fund.

Viewers had the opportunity to simply enjoy the songs, interact with the musicians, or further help enhance communities through opportunities offered by these charitable organizations. The concert series, which aired on iHeartRadio’s YouTube, Instagram Live, and Facebook Live channels in late June and early July, gave anyone and everyone a chance to experience the healing powers of music (even when practicing social distancing).

The Healing Powers of Music

Do you ever hear a song and you just can’t help but smile? You’re not alone.

For years, research has found that listening to music can reduce stress, anxiety, and pain in hospital patients and caregivers of all kinds: young and old, those in the emergency room, and others with long-term conditions. It has also been found to be an effective substitute for reducing anxiety before an operation. And, according to Joanne Loewy, the Director of the Department of Music Therapy and Associate Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, music — particularly live music — excites and activates the body, enhances quality of life, and can promote recovery from illness.

It all stems from your brain and the different areas that are triggered by music. One area of your brain, the hypothalamus, is especially affected by music. The hypothalamus links your endocrine and nervous systems and is responsible for producing and releasing hormones that affect everything from your heart rate to your appetite to your mood. Due to this brain-body connection, according to Kiminobu Sugaya, a neuroscientist at the University of Central Florida, listening to Mozart can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.

So, if you’ve felt your heart rate quicken or slow down along with the pace of a song, you aren’t imagining it. Numerous studies have shown how hearing music can affect both your breathing and your heart rate. Songs with a fast tempo can cause these systems to speed up, and, as you might guess, slower tempos can be associated with slower breathing and heart rate.

Why support Musicians On Call?

During this global pandemic, patients and local caregivers are feeling more stress and isolation in the hospital than ever before. Musicians On Call works to alleviate some of those feelings by bringing music to patients in healthcare facilities.

In addition to the donation Ally and iHeartRadio made to Musicians On Call, we also teamed up with them to give the gift of music to the dedicated healthcare workers on the frontlines through Healthcare Heroes eCards. We donated up to 5,000 songs, sent by fans directly during each of the iHeartRadio Concerts for the Community, to healthcare workers.

It’s no secret that the right music can be the ultimate mood booster. Right now, everyone can use a little dose of live music in their life — even if it’s just to put on a quick smile.

Why support United Way?

For many people, feeding the kids, making the rent, and keeping the lights on is tougher than ever before due to the impacts of COVID-19. Food pantries are overwhelmed and millions of people who’ve lost hours or jobs need help getting by. United Way steps in to connect people and communities to available local resources that help provide relief.

In addition to supporting United Way Worldwide through the Concerts for the Community series, we supported seven local United Way COVID-19 Relief Funds across the country, including in our Ally hometowns of Detroit and Charlotte. The total donations to United Way were over $1 million and are going toward helping those that need it most recover from the pandemic.

We also increased our support of United Way by donating funds to help identify and solve Invisible Problems in communities around the country, particularly those who have been affected by racial and social economic inequalities. Invisible Problems is a United Way campaign that listens to problems and elevates them to a team of innovators who help design solutions. What’s happening to your family, neighbors, or community? Submit your Invisible Problems at unitedway.ideascale.com.

How can you help?

While the concert series has ended, there are still ways you can support these organizations:

You can still send a video dedication to your own personal healthcare hero and include a special message. Each eCard features a video of a healing song recorded by one of Musicians On Call’s talented Volunteer Musicians. With these eCards, individuals can let their loved ones know they are thinking of them as they work tirelessly during this unprecedented time. Healthcare Heroes eCards can be purchased with a $10 donation to Musicians On Call at donate.musiciansoncall.org/healthcarehero.

You can also simply donate to United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund and the Musicians On Call COVID Relief Fund. United Way Worldwide’s fund supports communities by responding to peoples’ needs, including financial, food, and housing. Funding for Musicians On Call’s COVID relief efforts enables the organization to meet the increased demand from hospitals for virtual music programs for patients, families, and caregivers.

At Ally, we firmly believe it’s our responsibility as corporate citizens to make a positive social impact on the world around us. This belief is embedded in the very fabric of our business and culture. Learn more about how we aim to spark positive change in the world around us.

Originally published June 2020