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Randolph professor discusses research in new webinar series

Psychology professor Sara Beck and her daughter work with Cassidy Carter in the new children's research space

Psychology professor Sara Beck and her daughter work with Cassidy Carter in Randolph’s children’s research space.

Randolph psychology professor Sara Beck recently brought her research about children and their engagement with music to a new webinar series created by opera singer Renée Fleming.

Music and Mind with Renée Fleming, which launched in mid-May, features Fleming talking to experts in fields like childhood development, healthy aging, pain and anxiety management, and rehabilitation about the intersection of music, neuroscience, and healthcare.

“Research is revealing amazing things about the way arts influence human health and the brain,” Fleming said in a press release. “With our working lives halted, the COVID-19 pandemic has also fostered an explosion of creativity and goodwill. What better time to examine our need as human beings to create and experience the arts, and the basis of this in science?”

Beck’s episode—At Home with Children: Musical Tool Kit, which aired last week—is based on work she and Miriam Lense, a Vanderbilt professor and co-director of the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab, have been doing since co-creating Serenade, a parent-child music program, together.

Beck said they discussed the program and also talked more generally about musical strategies parents, caregivers, and siblings can use to engage with young children, as well as the science behind music-making.

“These are musical strategies you can use with very young children to not only build skills but to engage socially with your kids to have fun,” she said. “A lot of parents naturally do a little bit of this, but what we’ve learned is that parents really want to know what else they can do.”

Beck and Lense first met Fleming when they were students and she spoke at an event for Vanderbilt’s Program for Music, Mind, and Society, a network of researchers, scientists, artists, and students who work to understand the impacts of music on individuals and society.

The first episode of the series, featuring former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, aired in mid-May and focused on music, loneliness, and isolation. A conversation with Charles Limb, a music scientist known for his work studying musicians’ brains while they’re improvising, followed, and on June 9, Fleming will sit down with Deepak Chopra to discuss “An Integrative Approach to COVID-19 and the Mind.”

“I’m just really honored to be included among these great people,” Beck said. “I’ve been fortunate because I was at Vanderbilt when a lot of energy was building behind these initiatives. There were lots of people interested in various kinds of what we call music science.

“It’s an exciting area of research and an exciting global conversation happening among practitioners and scientists and music therapists. I think this series is going to be a tremendous representation of a conversation that’s been building for the last 10 years.”

Beck’s episode can be found on Fleming’s Facebook page, The Kennedy Center, for which Fleming serves as an artistic advisor, also is featuring the series on its Facebook and YouTube channels, and users can replay each episode on its website,

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