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MSO, Opera Memphis, UofM Institute for Arts and Health come together for Music and the Mind

Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Opera Memphis, in collaboration with the University of Memphis Institute for Arts and Health, will host Music and the Mind, a panel on cognitive diseases related to aging featuring world-renowned soprano vocalist Renée Fleming.

“To have someone as iconic as Renée Fleming not only performing in our city, but also sharing her passion for an important topic such as this is tremendous for our community,” said Dr. Ryan Fisher, interim dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts.

The event, which will take place Wednesday, September 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. at UofM’s “The Zone” conference center, happens just a day before Fleming’s season-opening Memphis-debut performance alongside the Memphis Symphony Orchestra at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

“In the process of preparing our collaboration, we found that music and the arts and health was Renée’s major philanthropic focus,” said Abell. “We were very happy to share that the University of Memphis had its very own Institute for Arts and Health, and that MSO and Opera Memphis were active affiliates.”

Fleming is a leading advocate for the study of the powerful connections between the arts and health and has delivered presentations on Music and the Mind in more than 50 cities across North America, Europe, and Asia, collaborating with leading local researchers and practitioners in the arts and health.

“In a time when some are tempted to write off the arts as frivolous or a luxury, exploring the power of music to inspire, heal, and connect us has never been more necessary,” added Ned Canty, general director of Opera Memphis.  “Seeing an icon of this caliber use her influence to make the world better should be an aspiration for every young musician in Memphis.”

“This event presents one of those moments where artistic groups and educational institutions are stronger when they work together,” said Peter Abell, president and CEO of Memphis Symphony. “The relationship between opera and symphony are linked together forever, and one person who embodies that is Renée Fleming. And so, too, does the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, which has fabulous opera, symphony and orchestra programs of its own.”

In addition to Fleming, featured speakers include Dr. Miriam van Mersbergen, assistant professor with the UofM School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and director the Voice Emotion and Cognition Laboratory as well as Dr. Žak Ozmo, an internationally renowned music director, lutenist, conductor and host of “Music and Medicine” on WYXR 91.7 FM.

“It is such a key feature of this event for Renée to be joined by these two expert panelists,” said Abell.

Dr. van Mersbergen’s research is motivated by her 25 years of clinical experience.  Her clinical experience has focused on the injured singing voice, which has motivated her research into the relationship one has with their own voice, how this relationship influences the sense of self and well-being, and how factors such as emotional experience and cognitive load affect one’s voice.

Dr. Ozmo’s focus on the healing properties of music reflects the role that music played in his own family history, including his experiences as a refugee from the Bosnian war in the 90s.  These experiences, combined with historical studies of the role that music plays in healing, music therapy training, as well as more than 20 years of experience with the clinical applications of music, were channeled into a mission to bring the healing properties of music and sound to others through holistic and scientific means

Free parking at Innovation Garage off Central Avenue will be available for those who RSVP to this event. Visit for details and to RSVP.

Published inEventsGreater Memphis AreaLecturesRudi E. Scheidt School of MusicUniversity of Memphis

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