Tag Archives: university

Judy Garland had it right all along

The holidays are officially over.

This phrase has probably been whirling around the heads of those going back to work or preparing for the coming semester. It seems so definitive it’s almost deafening. It’s not all dread and drudge, however! The Christmas season has been a time for recuperation, reflection, relaxation, regeneration: a time of looking back at the hectic year that was 2013 and thinking about the future, making our way in the world, and being content with and proud of the choices that have led us to where we stand now.

New year’s resolutions are, for me at least, usually a whimsical notion which lead to nothing except guilt for not having achieved them. This year, however, I have decided that I will simply try to be as present in my own life as I possibly can. Present mentally, of course. It can be so easy to drift off into a routine of doing the same mundane things day-in, day-out without actually feeling anything. Being present in my life is something that I can only benefit from, and in turn allows me to be a better daughter, sister, partner, friend, student, and whatever other roles I hold in life. One can only aspire to be a better version of themselves. Judy Garland had it right all along:

Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.

Nowadays one can become very disillusioned with what the media reports is expected of us. Perpetuating the notion that students should begin their tertiary education with a Bachelor, move on to a Master and finish with a PhD in a topic that is “useful” to the economy. Who has the right to say that any person should follow a curriculum which predetermines their future whether they want it or not? Where is the academic or social freedom that students crave? Why do we not have the ability to choose how we lead our lives without the pressure of having to find a well-paying job directly after we emerge from a programme? Why is it that one cannot simply follow their heart and study simply to better oneself, broaden one’s horizons and become that first-rate version of themselves?

Choosing to study at the University of Jyväskylä has been a life changing experience for me. Coming from a small Irish town, studying for my Bachelor in another small town and moving to a city which feels like a home away from home has most definitely made me feel like I have achieved something great in 2013. The year has definitely been hectic, but I can say with all honesty that I have never experienced as much personal growth, met as many wonderful and knowledgeable people, and felt as much at home as I have in Jyväskylä. Although I am still finding the language somewhat of a struggle, I have found the whole experience to be extremely enriching. It not only showed me that I can change but showed me the kind of person I want to and, most importantly, can be.

The programme has enabled me to meet the most inspiring and hard-working people, for which I will be eternally grateful. I know that from this I will be able to emerge from this two-year programme a better and well-rounded person with amazing friends and extraordinary memories. I have not only experienced personal growth, but also professional. It has let me see that my future not only holds one path but has many. That is the exquisite beauty of education, one can never have learned enough, have seen enough or experienced enough. The easy freedom of knowing that one’s direction in life is not predetermined is relieving and invigorating, yet of course can be daunting!

I know, I will never regret the decision I made to come here, to be a part of a group of people that will doubtless go on to do great things and continue to be an inspiration for others, and to see the beauty and live in the vast expanse that is Finland.

An adventure like this is something to be relished, a dream come true. Make it your reality, too.

Apply here before February 14th: https://www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/musiikki/en/studies/mmt/Application

3rd International Conference on Music and Emotion – Jyväskylä, 2013

How does one define emotion? This is the age old question, right? It’s personal, subjective, feelings. Ew. Emotions are so hard to describe even though we feel them all day, every day. They are my feelings, why do I need to describe them?

This is something which is important for us to understand for so many reasons. As a music therapy MA student of course this topic is an intricate thread in the course. I have always believed that music and emotions are connected. How would it be possible to listen to Beethoven and not feel the power emanating from it? It’s almost impossible to listen to Latin music and not feel your foot start to tap or the music move your body as if with a cajoling physical force. For me, they’re connected – again, it’s my opinion.

However, it may be completely presumptuous of me to jump to any conclusion which would imply that everyone feels the same way about certain pieces of music they way I do.

Sit back. Clear your mind. Think of a song, a melody that evokes a strong feeling in you. Maybe thinking about the music isn’t enough to really get a true sense of the feeling or emotion you get when you actually listen to it. Music is powerful; power beyond words. But that’s what the researchers who attended the conference in Jyväskylä from June 11th – 15th wanted to do – express what we feel when listening to music in words and try to understand it on a broader scale. From Neurophysiology to Everyday Listening, to put it colloquially, this conference ‘had it all’. Keynote speakers were, as to be expected, no less than inspiring. Eric Clarke, Antonio Camurri, Jane Davidson, Klaus Scherer, Stefan Koelsch – all big names in the business. Who could say no to a line up like that?!

Of course, the University of Jyväskylä is the perfect place to hold such a conference. The department of music is well known for its research in this exact topic – music and emotions, music, gesture and movement – which, of course, is undoubtedly related to the emotions we experience whilst listening to music – music perception, and many more.

(If you’re interested to know more about the type of research that has been done at the Centre of Excellence 2008-2013 at Jyväskykä, follow the yellow brick road…em, this link: https://www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/musiikki/en/research/coe/publications )

Well, not only was the department in Jyväskylä the perfect host to the conference, the city itself is beautiful. With 16,000 students – 1,000 of which are international – at the main university, not including JAMK – the University of Applied Sciences – the secondary and priary schools, this city of 135,000 inhabitants is definitely the definition of a “student city”. Not that it feels like a city. The feeling one gets whilst being here is more of a small town with nice shopping centres surrounded by countryside. Perfect for nature enthusiasts. Naturally, the conference wasn’t all work; there were more than enough social events organised to keep the delegates wanting more. From a 3 hour cruise around Jyväsjärvi – the lake on which shores the university lies – to a jazz jam session which led to an embarrassing amount of 1920s style dance attempts (http://ravintolapoppari.fi/). (Musicians – possibly the best peeps to party with? Everyone knows how to play something!) An amazing Sauna experience (what else, this is Finland!) and mouthwatering meals at an old-style, stunningly located, authentic finnish community settlement (http://www.savutuvanapaja.fi/index.php?page=main).

Geoff Luck, the conference chair, and Markku Pöyhönen, who definitely should not go without mentioning, were absolute stars – it couldn’t have run any smoother. Of course, the staff (i.e. us willing students who were lucky enough to be able to help out) couldn’t have asked for such an inspiring opportunity. Not many people can say that they had the chance to attend talks by prestigious researchers at an international event which took place on their very doorstep.

Long days and lots of smiling were part and parcel for the helpers. A photo is worth a thousand words and this one describes from left to right our interpretation of music -> emotion!Image

Breaking Down the Walls of Silence

“When we look at the body of evidence that the arts contribute to our society, it’s absolutely astounding. Music Therapists are breaking down the walls of silence and affliction of autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.”  – Michael Greene, President and CEO of NARAS

The world of music is a big one. Really big, in fact. Contemplating choosing one artist, one singer/songwriter, one album, one genre even is a monumental task. You could spend hours analyzing it. Or rather analyzing yourself. Like any other art form such as dance or visual art, music is a way in which we express ourselves. We can choose any way to do this, any melody, any type of instrument and because we have chosen it, because we assign value to it, it says something about us. In fact, in many cases, music can not just be a way in which we tell others who we are, it is something much stronger; it helps us to understand who we are ourselves.

Music therapy is a growing field among the music psychology terrain. It is a method for the treatment of many illnesses and diseases as well as helping one find one’s self. It is not “the right way” to get therapy, it is simply “a way”. Music therapists work in either a private or public setting, with individuals or groups and it can be much more active than simply putting on a CD and listening aimlessly. The wonder and beauty about going to therapy is that it is yours. All yours. No one can ever take that away. It can be what you want it to be and if that means listening to recorded music or writing your own, then it is.

Breaking down the walls of silence is an appropriate message of what music therapy can be for a client. The arts – music, dance, visual – are all equally valid as forms of expression and can indeed be powerful tools in breaking down the barrier between a client and therapist. Or between the client and themselves. 

The University of Jyväskylä – see webpage:  https://www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/musiikki/en/studies/mmt/therapy/therapy – offers a wonderful music therapy research Master Degree programme, taught through English. The course enables students to discover the world of research as well as a snoop into the practical side of things with the clinical internships. Renowned researchers Jaakko Erkkilä and Esa Ala-Ruona are university teachers there who provide a foundation in knowledge about topics such as Music Therapy in Medicine and as Rehabilitation as well as teaching us about projects which are currently being researched at the department such as Music and Emotion. 

As Michael Green so succinctly put it, music therapy is an aid to breaking down the barriers of silence between us and Autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. These are three, just three, of many illnesses which can be helped with the use of music as a therapeutic aid. Understanding how we ourselves use music is one small step towards understanding how music can be used for and with others.