Renee Fleming, Jason King and Gail Eichenthal on stage

Opera soprano Renée Fleming, center, has a discussion with Dean Jason King, right, and moderator Gail Eichenthal, left, during a research workshop on music, health and policy. (Photo/Gus Ruelas)


Experts converge at USC Music, Health and Policy workshop

USC Thornton Dean Jason King and LA Opera soprano Renée Fleming were among the speakers at the workshop hosted at Cammilleri Hall on the University Park Campus.

June 18, 2024 By Will Kwong

USC recently hosted its first Music, Health and Policy workshop as part of Los Angeles County Arts and Health Week, filling Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall on the University Park Campus.

Event organizer Assal Habibi, an associate professor at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences who explores the intersection between music and the human brain, brought together a wide range of experts on the importance of art and its effect on human development and well-being.

“The workshop aims to bring people together to foster collaboration and combine our efforts to advance the field of music science,” Habibi said. “Our goal is to go beyond generating scientific results and research and to drive meaningful changes in both education and health policy.”

Speakers included LA Opera soprano Renée Fleming, Dean Jason King of the USC Thornton School of Music, and Shrikanth “Shri” Narayanan, University Professor and vice president for presidential initiatives at USC.

Music’s impact on the brain

Research has shown music’s impact on childhood development and ability to address elderly cognitive decline. One USC study showed that music education can boost cognitive development and emotional well-being among K-12 students. Among older people, the use of music can help patients suffering from dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease recall memories.

The importance of art in schools, especially in relation to the passing of California Proposition 28, was top of mind for many attendees of the event. Approved by voters in 2022, Proposition 28 mandated an increase in funding for arts and music education in K-12 public schools.

Exploring the overlap between music and health

“I’m aiming to bring more conversation on health into the curriculum, and ideally aiming to develop some programs around music, health and sciences,” King said.

Shrikanth Narayanan
Shrikanth Narayanan spoke about USC’s role in the future of health and wellness. (Photo/Gus Ruelas)

“This workshop brought together people who are looking at not only the science of music, but also how it can help in the healing of humans,” Narayanan said. “As a researcher and member of the USC community, I’ve been working at the interface between the mind, body, and music and society. And my work has always been at the nexus of what it means to be human and how it shapes their experiences, especially incorporating computational and engineering methodologies.”

“Visual art, therapy, theater, dance — all of these aspects of who we are as human beings creatively — belong in schools,” Fleming said.