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The Wellness Center hosts an exploration of music therapy

Students gather at the Wellness Center to see if music therapy has an effect on their moods.

Photo by Davenport Latner

AHS senior Julia Zielke, who plans to study psychology in college, ran three sessions in an exploration of music therapy on Jan. 17, 24, and 27. A few students volunteered to spend their lunches in the Wellness Center to participate in these experiments. Zielke had participants listen to instrumental music and record the way they felt throughout the experience. The exploration showed a clear connection between music and mood, according to Zielke.

As Zielke pulled up the selection of music for the first day of the exploration on her phone, Ms. Kamala Proulx, Wellness Center Coordinator, handed six students seated at a round table pieces of paper as they unpacked their lunches. Once everyone had the supplies they needed and began eating their lunches, Zielke announced how the event would work. A few selections of music were played, mostly featuring piano, with two by South Korean pianist Yiruma. During and after each piece, participants anonymously wrote down how the music made them feel. This could be done either through writing or illustration.

The first song was “River Flows in You,” a popular piece by Yiruma. Immediately, several students grinned as they recognized the tune. Within seconds of the song's beginning, they went writing and doodling away. As it was playing, one bystander even got up to tell Zielke just how familiar the composition sounded.

The next composition was “Metamorphosis One” by Philip Glass. Students were only able to hear a few minutes of the half-hour-long piano piece. Slowly, but surely, the students’ facial expressions changed in accordance with the shift from Yiruma’s curious piece to Philip Glass’s dark and brooding music.

The next song played was “J.S. Jig” by Brant Karrick. This piece is quite an upbeat and orchestral selection. The students smiled as they began writing and drawing out their thoughts. Finally, the last piece in the first session of the music exploration was “Kiss the Rain,” another composition by Yiruma. This song has a notably similar feel to the aforementioned “River Flows in You” by Yiruma and, as such, had notably similar reactions.

After the exploration was complete, discussion ensued. Several students debated if the music influenced their mood or if, alternatively, their mood influenced how they heard the movement.

The second and third sessions of the exploration of music therapy were much like the first. During the second session, however, only one song was used, a piano piece composed by Zielke herself, and we sat outside on a brisk day. She handed out surveys, which allowed students to rate their “stress level” before and after the music, to the four people in attendance. According to Zielke, she did the experiment because she's passionate about music and psychology, so she wanted to see if she could use music to help people. The exploration ended with results that, according to Zielke, clearly showed a correlation between music and a decrease in stress.

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