Conference Explores Music and the Mind

Last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts put together an event with the National Endowment for the Arts called: Music and the Mind, Changing Our Children’s Lives Through Music Engagement. This event brought together musicians, neuroscientists, music therapists, and other professionals to explore links between music, rhythm, and brain development. Over the next few blog posts, I will write about the topics discussed and the insights presented. What they discussed at this event is not only interesting but also important for music therapy as we can see a growing interest in knowing more about how music affects us.

Music and the Mind: Sound Health – The Concert

The first night was two hours of music performances and research presentations on a variety of topics. The performances were of diverse artists, featuring legendary Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart, master tabla player Zakir Hussain, acclaimed pianist and Kennedy Center Artistic Director of Jazz Jason Moran, world-renowned soprano and Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor at Large Renée Fleming, singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin, tap dancing sisters Chloe and Maud Arnold, jazz piano prodigy Matthew Whitaker, Freestyle Love Supreme co-founder Anthony Veneziale (Two Touch), and more.


Dr. Laurel Trainor

Neuroscientist Laurel Trainor presented about her research on movement, music, and how rhythm affects our interpersonal relationships. More specifically, she shared her research on how toddlers seem to show more trust after having bounced in sync with another person. Much in line with our intuitions, singing to infants also calms them more than simply talking to them. This seems to indicate a link between music, rhythm and the development of infants. This information is important not only for music therapists but for anybody with a kid who wishes to use music at home. Dr. Trainor is doing innovative work in her Auditory Development Lab in Ontario, Canada, and it’s worth checking out!


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Dr. John Iversen

Dr. John Iversen followed with a talk about our perception of musical rhythm. He has demonstrated the active role of the brain in shaping how we listen to rhythm. When we listen to music, the part of our brains in charge of movement is also at play. Who can listen to music without wanting to move to the beat? He also talks about how much of music is dependent on how we perceive it. A rhythm can be heard in different ways depending on how our brain processes it.


Following Dr. Iversen were more performances by master musicians. How do musicians achieve a level of mastery? Why does music move us? How do we as the audience enter the world of the musicians when we listen to them? How does music have the power to heal? Luckily, through this conference and other initiatives, we see an attempt to find answers to these and many other questions about music, the mind, and health.

L. Samuel Gracida

L. Samuel Gracida

Samuel is Sam's Fans Operating Director and our primary blogger!

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