Friday, September 15, 2017, 10:30 am
Bitting Mansion, 1711 Hampden Blvd., Reading 19604
Open to the public! Join us for light refreshments at 10:00 am

Mirrors in the Brain - and what they mean for musicians

One of the most exciting neuroscience discoveries of the past twenty years has been the discovery of mirror neurons – those amazing, specialized brain cells that fire not only when we perform an action, but also when we observe someone else performing that same action.  Research has shown that musicians have both an auditory and a visual mirror neuron system.

If you are a pianist watching another pianist, not only will the visual processing area of the brain be active, but so will the motor processing area, as though you yourself are playing.  And if you are listening to another pianist, your auditory cortex will be active, but so will your motor cortex, again as though you yourself are playing.  Our brains mirror the actions and sounds made by other musicians. 

The existence of these neurons has tremendous implications for how we learn to play an instrument, how we teach, and how we perform.  But, surprisingly, they also affect how an audience member hears a performance.

This presentation will discuss mirror neurons and what they mean for teaching, learning, and performing, and will suggest strategies that make mirror neurons work for you in the teaching studio and onstage. 


Pianist Lois Svard has performed at festivals and on concert series across the United States and in Europe and has received critical acclaim for her performances and recordings of contemporary American piano music.

She is also well-known for her work in applying current neuroscience research to the study and performance of music.  Results of her work have been presented at national and international conferences, including the Performing Arts Medicine Association, the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the International Society for Music Education (Beijing, Thessaloniki, Glasgow), the Music Teachers National Association (Anaheim, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Baltimore), the European Piano Teachers Association (Amsterdam, Helsinki), and the London International Piano Symposium.  She has also taught a university course that explores the applications of current neuroscience research for making music. 

She writes The Musician’s Brain, a blog that has introduced readers in more than 120 countries to some of the latest research in neuroscience and music.  She is especially interested in how brain research can inform teaching, learning and performing. 

Svard received her DMA from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University and is Professor of Music Emerita and former chair of the Music Department at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she received the 2007 Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching and the 2014 Artistic Achievement Award.  She is also the recipient of an NEA award for Arts Commentary and Perspectives on the Arts. 

She is on the Board of the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association, a member of the Wellness Committee for the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, a member of the Musicians’ Health Committee and former Board Member for Performance of the College Music Society. 


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