Anne Cleary: Our Connection Between Music and the Mind

Apr 2, 2019 | News, Off the Hook Arts

Anne Cleary - SummerFest 2019

Anne Cleary has been a board member at Off the Hook Arts for 2 years now, after being attracted to our organization by her own professional research on the connections between the mind and music.

A professor at CSU with a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, Anne has researched interesting phenomena about how our brains react to music: Why are tunes familiar to us? How do we recognize a song? How does a song get stuck in your head?

After joining Off the Hook Arts, Anne was introduced to Bruce Adolphe’s Piano Puzzlers. These programs explore the juxtaposition between popular music and the unique styles of classical composers. Anne has incorporated these musical works and brain teasers into her own research on song recognition and familiarity. Listen to them here!

Anne’s excitement about Off the Hook Arts stems from an interest in the intersection between music and human cognition. There is a scientific literature that points toward a benefit of musical training on brain and cognitive development in children. In particular, some studies suggest that childhood musical training, such as through community music classes, may induce neuroplasticity in children in ways that benefit other aspects of cognitive processing. Such benefits may increase the likelihood of success in many domains, including STEM disciplines.

As an expert in this field, Anne is a passionate advocate for free and low-cost community music education programs for youth, stressing the importance of musical exposure at a young age for reasons beyond exposure to musical instrument playing itself. Such lessons may help to prepare students for a multitude of skills and career opportunities in later life.

“There is a sort of friction between science and art that I see in our education system. A lot of the time, the arts are viewed as less critical for student learning than science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). However, if you look at the research that is out there, evidence really points toward their mutual interaction. Training in the arts, including music, may actually enhance students’ learning in STEM content areas. So, if we want students to excel in STEM areas, we should make sure that we are also teaching them in the arts.”

In many ways, programming by Off the Hook Arts tries to resolve this friction by bringing together featuring world-class musicians and interdisciplinary collaborations among the arts, sciences, and humanities.

During the first few days of Off the Hook Arts’ SummerFest 2019, Anne is organizing a mini-conference on perceptual and cognitive illusions and other oddities of our everyday impressions and experiences. A select group cognitive scientists from around the world will be attending, presenting their latest research on perception, memory and cognition and others will simply attend to hear about and discuss ongoing research and issues in the field.

Thank you to Anne Cleary for taking time to talk about the festival, your research, and some of these special events coming up during SummerFest 2019!