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Kayla M. ’23 Studies Music Cognition by Producing Original Album

Think of your favorite song. Play it in your head. When you hear this song, does it evoke specific feelings or emotions? While listening to your favorite playlist, have you ever stopped to wonder how musicians convey emotions through their songs? 

If you’re Kayla M. ’23, this has been a question that you have pondered on a regular basis – ever since that tenth grade seminar project on how music makes you feel different emotions. A self-taught musician, Kayla has always been musically inclined but it wasn’t until that specific project combined with her AP psychology class where she realized she could make a career out of her personal passion and academic interest. 

“That was definitely a pivotal moment for me and kind of where it all began,” Kayla explained. “Music has always been a huge part of my life, I can’t function without it. But when I took AP psychology, [psychology] became a passion of mine right there alongside music – the two really go hand in hand for me. Learning about the human brain was a really fun experience for me and also learning that music cognition is a whole career field was really eye opening for me.” 

Kayla has always paid attention to how music makes her feel, or rather why it makes her feel that way. And when it came time to create a proposal for her final capstone project, it was an obvious choice to dive deeper into music cognition. Over the last several weeks, Kayla completed interviews with psychologists and music therapists to learn exactly how music affects the brain. Once her research was completed, she then produced a six song album emulating the six emotions that are portrayed in music: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, disgust, and surprise. 

“You can assume that the major scales make people happy and the minor scales, where you flat the third note in the scale, equals feelings of sadness,” Kayla said. “If you organize chord progressions and start off minor and transition to major in the end, it would portray surprise. For anger, you could pair a minor scale with a heavy metal guitar.” 

Kayla will continue her studies and research at University of Rochester where she will major in psychology with a minor in music cognition; she also has interest in studying business. 

Before her time ended at The Hun School, Kayla had two opportunities to perform that she couldn’t pass up. After all, she has spent two years in advanced jazz band, two years in regular jazz, and a year in the pit band. Kayla and her band performed at the Family Dinner Celebration and Prom.