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Sitting in her car anxiously waiting, the music of Bon Iver filled Alanna Muirhead’s car. Minutes before her University Singers audition, Muirhead said the calming sounds helped her relax.

Muirhead, now a sophomore at the University and a member of the University Singers, listens to Bon Iver’s rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” before any audition she has.

Born in Oman and having moved three times before high school, Muirhead said growing up was hard because constantly moving place to place made her look for something to cling onto. Piano and singing lessons beginning at eight years old led Muirhead to her involvement with music today.

“Music was the one thing that stayed constant in my life, that I could always keep with me,” Muirhead said.

Performing arts is a tribal necessity, said Ric Averill, artistic director of performing arts at the Lawrence Arts Center. The arts center hosts a Free State Story Slam the second Friday of each month. May 10 was the Grand Slam which highlighted the audience’s favorite storytellers from the season.

Based off the MOTH, a non-profit story telling series in New York City, Free State Story Slam brings in a wide range of people from the community. About 20 to 40 people usually attend and the only rules of the night are the stories must be true and given without any notes.

The story slam creates a way to break social barriers, and Averill said people are driven by orally communicated memories.

“Story tellers have a way of touching on a sense of common experience,” Averill said.

Listening to music is one of the 11 health benefits of music Huffington Post found. A doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg documented research on stress relief.

Paul Stevens, associate professor of horn, has been at the University for 14 years. He played a KU School of Music Faculty Series concert on May 11 and said practicing music daily is just like exercise.

“There’s a certain outlet for our emotions,” Stevens said. “I can express emotions that maybe I can’t do any other way.”

While music may be an emotional outlet, Stevens said there is still a high stress level of performing a piece perfectly. He said musicians have to find a way to lower stress in order to perform well. They meditate and use other relaxation methods to prepare.

“Tension is our number one enemy,” Stevens said. “If we give into stress then we can’t perform.”

Listening to music has been shown to soothe pain as another one of the 11 health benefits of music Huffington Post found. The Journal of Pain produced the original research and the study showed less arousal from participants who were listening to music while their fingertips were shocked with electrodes.

While Stevens has not quite had the same experience, he said the reason he is a musician is because the music moves him so deeply that it takes him to places he never thought he would go.

“The best music bridges the gap between our regular, mundane lives and something greater,” Stevens said.

Geniuses such as Mozart who could write legendary music is something beyond what mortal human beings should be able to do, according to Stevens.

“They have that channel to a higher place,” Stevens said.

Performing is a way to portray emotion while putting on a show, sophomore at the University Muirhead said. She was a member of her high school show choir and said learning to control your breathing and execute the motions at the same time was like cardio.

“Your heart’s beating really fast and you can’t breathe but at the same time you’re trying to sing beautifully,” Muirhead said.

The physicality of show choir benefited her because she said it taught her how to control her voice and still get her emotions across to the audience. She said her experience with that type of performing has helped shape her as a singer now.

“I go beyond just listening to the notes,” Muirhead said. “I look more into the emotion behind it and the lyrics.”


Audio Transcript

Muirhead: (singing) ‘Round my hometown, memories are fresh. ‘Round my hometown ooh the people I’ve met.

Me: Good afternoon listeners, this is Hannah Barling with Anything Artsy. Music is listened to and created by artists for multiple reasons. Elkhorn, Neb., sophomore Alanna Muirhead is a member of the University Singers. She says music is an emotional outlet.

Muirhead: When we sang the song you could feel everybody connecting together, and really feeling that no matter what we’re always going to have each other.

Me: Muirhead says her involvement with show choir in high school helped her learn how to release emotions through performance. She says portraying the feeling of the song was something her choir director always pushed the group to do.

Muirhead: I guess it worked because judges would always say ‘we could definitely see the emotion in your song.’

Me: Muirhead says “Hometown Glory” by Adele is one of her favorite songs to sing because she can really get into it and show the audience her innermost self. She says letting her emotions out is a form of stress relief.

Muirhead: (singing) I love it in the city when two worlds collide. You got the people and the government, everybody taking different sides.

Me: Until next time, this has been Hannah Barling with Anything Artsy.