College of Music

University of Colorado Boulder

Tuning the brain for creativity: 'Your Brain Needs Music' symposium, Oct. 11-12

October 3, 2013

Your Brain Needs Music, Oct. 11-12 at CU-Boulder

BOULDER, Colo. – “Access to arts education is one of the civil rights issues of our time,” says Anthony Brandt, associate professor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. That may sound like hyperbole, but Brandt says it’s just neuroscience. 

Complex human behavior involves both automated behavior — rote memorization — and mediated behavior, which requires synthesis, reasoning and creativity.

Creative behavior, Brandt argues, can be thought of as bending, breaking and blending. Repeating someone else’s words is not creative, but “Groucho Marx’s line ‘Home is where you hang your head’ is an example of bending,” he writes in an Oct. 1 op-ed for the Houston Chronicle.

“Breaking occurs when the original is smashed into pieces and rearranged,” such as breaking syntax in poetry, he writes. “Blending occurs when two sources are merged: Words like ‘Carmageddon’…” 

And breaking, bending and blending can only be taught through a creative curriculum. 

Training in the arts is “about freedom of thought, about giving every child the opportunity with the full measure of human capabilities. We need to train the whole brain,” he concludes. 

Brandt is one of four research scientists who will speak at “Your Brain Needs Music!,” the 7th Porter-Campbell symposium at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Music Oct. 11-12,  presented by the American Music Research Center. 

The symposium will feature keynote speakers, including Brandt, on such topics as “Why Mind Needs Art,” “Neural Mapping and Brain Chemistry: How Singing is Good for and “Singing a Path Through the Chaotic World.” 

Other keynote speakers will include Arizona-based psychologist Melinda Connor on “Music for the Soul, Healing for the Brain”; Kay Norton of Arizona State University on “Neural Mapping and Brain Chemistry: How Singing is Good for You”; and Steve Swayne of Dartmouth College on “Pandora’s Box: The Effects of Easy Listening.” 

The lectures are free and open to the public, but seating is limited.

The two-day symposium also will feature free, public panel discussions with experts from the University of Colorado Boulder and beyond.



“Your Brain Needs Music”

7th Triennial Porter Campbell Symposium, Oct. 11-12

Keynote: Anthony Brandt, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, Grusin Music Hall, College of Music, 1020 18th St.

Other events in the Irish and British Studies Room, Norlin Library, University of Colorado Boulder

When: Various times; please go to for more information 

Tickets: Free and open to the public; seating is limited.