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Mind Over Music

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    Students from Williams Elementary play with instruments they made in Andrea Plybon's "Mind Over Music" program.

Southwestern student develops program to tie music, art to classes taken by elementary school students

Every Wednesday, six 5th graders excitedly wait for sophomore Andrea Plybon to take them from Williams Elementary to Southwestern for an afternoon of creativity and musical inspiration. As soon as they arrive on campus, the children run ahead of Plybon to the Fine Arts Center, eager to play and learn in a unique afterschool program titled “Mind Over Music.”

“Mind over music,” from the phrase “mind over matter,” signifies the connection of knowledge to all other subjects in the brain. “As ‘mind over matter’ represents all your knowledge over materialistic things, ‘mind over music’ represents all your knowledge over music,” Plybon said. “It is the instance of music being an ornamentation of your knowledge.” 

According to Plybon, a music theory and composition major, the primary purpose of “Mind Over Music” is to help students do better in their core curriculum. She said, “Most students are taught focusing on the auditory, and occasionally visual senses in courses focused on reading, science and math. Most students don’t focus on the senses that fine arts exercise, although research shows that the fine arts are connected to and help strengthen the other fundamental subjects. I hope that making this connection at an early age will not only encourage a love for the fine arts and what they offer, but will also develop a understand of how everything in education connects.”

Plybon and three co-directors lead the elementary children in projects that build on the topics they are discussing in their classes. 

“We look at their curriculum online to get a sense of what they are learning and work to create connections between their subjects and the artistic developments,” Plybon said. “For example, in their language arts classes we work on finding music that connects to specific characters. Also, drawing pictures of the stories they are reading, acting out scientific lessons or verbalizing connections between rhythms and math helps students with comprehension and memory. When they take tests, they can connect the feeling of the music with the questions and essays they work on.” 

Every week, the students make a musical instrument from household objects, such as guitars from shoeboxes and rubber bands. They have also built drums, horns and flutes. Although the focus is on music, other aspects of the fine arts are also incorporated, such as theatre or art, depending on the subject. 

According to Plybon, the program reflects the interdisciplinary focus of Southwestern by connecting subjects through projects.

Plybon created “Mind Over Music” last semester after reading This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. “Levitin’s book explains that originally it was thought that music only worked the right side of the brain but now we find that it is one of the few things to work the whole brain,” she said. “In my own experience, I found this to be true. I perform much better when I study to music. In high school, I drew music notes and lyrics around the borders of my TAKS tests because I used to sing while worked. I started realizing the connections between music and other subjects and that’s when I came up with this program.”

Plybon received a King Creativity Grant this year to fund the “Mind Over Music” program. The grant provides funding for transportation and materials that are used in the projects. Plybon’s partners on the project are Rachel Freeman, a sophomore majoring in international studies; Ashley Holland, a sophomore majoring in education; and Brian Miller, a sophomore majoring in music education.

For more information on the program, visit http://sites.google.com/site/mindovermusicorg/Home