Lyceum series bridges brain research and music

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By KJ Burkley | Reporter

World-renowned violist Dr. Molly Gebrian and piano-percussionist Danny Holt will perform a “Trios for Two” recital at 7:30 tonight in Roxy Grove Hall. The recital is the second of two recent events that will kick off Baylor’s School of Music annual Lyceum Series.

The first event Monday in the Meadows Recital Hall was a workshop led by Gebrian titled “What Musicians Can Learn About Practicing From Current Brain Research.” Gebrian presented her findings on how both musicians and non-musicians can use certain methods to practice and study better, leading to more successful performances and academic study.

“Once you learn how your brain works, you can use those methods in your practice to perform more efficiently,” said Gebrian. “In my readings of material in neuroscience and how the brain learns, I found these methods to be implacable to how musicians practice and learn.”

“Trios for Two” is a project that Gebrian started in 2010, which entails reciting music that has been written specifically for her and Holt. According to Gebrian, Holt is the only piano-percussionist in the world to perform as a professional and has been since 2003.

Gebrian started playing music at an early age, and has studied, taught and performed at prestigious music schools in the United States and Europe. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts from Rice University’s Shepard School of Music, and also completed her master level schooling at the New England Conservatory of Music.

In addition to her studies in music, Gebrian has a love for understanding how the brain learns music, which led her to start this collaboration research project with scientists over this topic. Gebrian explained that it is imperative for musicians to know how their brains learn and to use those methods for better practice.

“I incorporate these methods every single day and every single second I practice,” said Gebrian. “If musicians don’t practice the right way, they are wasting their time. There are principles on how the brain works, and more specifically, how their brain works.”

Even though Dr. Gebrian is an instrumentalist, the research applies to any field of musicianship. This is one aspect Waco junior Isaac Arterburn, a choral education major, admired about Gebrian’s workshop.

“It’s really cool that she could combine the two disciplines of music and neurology to create a process to help us find more efficient ways to practice all music, not just instrumental,” Arterburn said. “In order to practice more efficiently, we need to understand how our brain works when we practice.”

Gebrian and Holt have performed “Trios for Two” in Houston and Los Angeles, where it was featured at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, or REDCAT. In celebration of their release on the Innova Recordings Label, Gebrian and Holt went on tour around the U.S. in 2016 and 2017.

“Understanding how your brain works will only benefit your practice,” Gebrian said. “Having that knowledge will greatly improve your learning, even if you are not a musician.”

Founded in 1976, the Lyceum Series gives a chance for the Baylor and greater Waco communities to receive musical instruction from world-class musicians. Due to the magnanimity of the Meadows Foundation in Dallas, all Lyceum Series events are open to the public and free of charge.