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Penn State Music Lab Helps People Find Their Voices

by on February 08, 2020 5:00 AM

Video by Steph Krane | Centre County Report

Brian Nichols grew up in a household with two deaf parents. Without a radio in the house for years, he and his sister had an unconventional introduction to music.

"We would take my mom's keys and go outside to the car and listen to tapes in the tape deck," said Nichols, an assistant professor of music at Penn State.

Now he and his lab of graduate and undergraduate students are focused on music and people's voices. Nichols is director of the Pitch Exploration Lab, which does research into how singing and voice affect the brain. Topics include understanding the pitch range in familiar songs and helping people protect their voices.

Members of the Pitch Exploration Lab were proud to display their projects in a showcase on campus. They say their research can help people find their voices.

Scott Atchison is a Ph.D. student in music education and a member of the lab. He says the projects benefit everybody, regardless of singing ability. 

"If we can help people understand how their vocal habits change, that's going to help them later on have healthy habits," Atchison said.

While the lab does higher level research, Nichols said the ultimate goal is for people to appreciate music and their own voices.

"Anything that contributes to how much people enjoy music or, particularly, how much people enjoy participating in music, we count that as a win," Nichols said. 

The Centre County Report is produced by students and faculty from Penn State's College of Communications. It is designed to serve a dual purpose. It is a source of news and information to the residents of Centre County.
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