Friday Lesson: Laughing Symphony

Courtesy of Justin McGlamery & Michael Gessford|

Have you ever had that group that just couldn’t get their sillies out?  You know, the gigglers, the nervous laughers, or the kids who are sharing a private joke or kidding around on the side?  We have had great success refocusing these situations with a simple and fun activity called “The Laughing Symphony.”

This is a variation on an activity that we learned from Roy Charette at a Connecticut Challenge Course Professionals Conference in 2003.  His original activity was an Emotional Symphony that had the different sections performing agreed upon qualities of various emotions.

This activity is an opportunity for groups to either get their sillies out or, if they are too serious, get silly.  The focusing quality of this activity is nothing to scoff at either!  Well, I suppose we can giggle at the fact that the outcome of this silly sounding symphony can be one of focus and calm.

Props/Materials Needed/Preparation
No Props or materials are needed; though, at times I have used a small stick to conduct, much like the baton a conductor of a symphony orchestra might use.

•      Have the group members circle-up, standing fairly close together, but not touching.
•      Ask participants if they know what a symphony is, and briefly discuss how musicians know when to start and stop playing their instruments.  They will invariably tell you about the conductor.
•      At this point, let the group members know that they are, in fact, going to become part of a symphony orchestra, though this is no ordinary orchestra of woodwinds and strings.  For this orchestra, the only instruments needed are laughs.  Teach the group your signs for start and stop.  I usually throw in a sign for crescendo and decrescendo (louder and softer)—be creative.  Think about the conductors you have seen throughout your experience and then take it to the next level of silliness.  The more the group sees your willingness to let it all hang out and get silly, the more it will buy in.
•      I sometimes have the group warm up with hums and quiet giggles much the way an orchestra tunes up before its performance.  I then tap my conductor’s baton (stick) on my invisible music stand and make sure all eyes are on me.  Upon the initial signal to begin, I too commence in loud, ridiculous, over-the-top laughter, which gives the participants the idea of what we’re doing, as well as permission (to those who need it) to be as zany as they wish.
•      After a minute or so, signal the group members to stop, give them good strokes for playing along, and encourage them to work on the ending.  Usually the first round ends with a few stray giggles and laughs, so talk to them about the importance of ending at precisely the same time, just as the greatest orchestras do.  This is one of the ways this activity becomes a focuser.  Much like the activity Photo Finish, the object is to end at exactly the same time.
•      Do the activity again.  Take notice of the amount of focus that is happening now.  Even those who aren’t as exuberant in their laughter are still engaged and ready to be successful by ending at the same exact time.

The other reason Laughing Symphony seems to work well as a focuser is because when we laugh, even when we are faking it, we actually reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone.  Laughter increases the levels of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters.  It increases the number of antibody cells while enhancing the effectiveness of T-cells responsible for a strong immune system.  Laughter really is good medicine!

This lesson is compliments of Michael Gessford and Justin McGlamery. To find more information and to contact the authors, please visit:

Thanks for joining us in March, 2010 for Friday Lessons. Michael Gessford and Justin McGlamery are the coauthors of Focus Your Locus.

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