Photo by Julie Louisa Hagenbuch

Lois Svard

Pianist Lois Svard is known for her performances and recordings of works by American experimental composers. She has also written and lectured extensively about the applications of neuroscience research for the study and performance of music. She is Professor Emerita of Music at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and is the author of the blog The Musician’s Brain about music, the brain, and learning. See below for information about her new book, The Musical Brain: what students, teachers, and performers need to know, recently published by Oxford University Press.


The Musical Brain:
What Students, Teachers, and Performers Need to Know

We make or listen to music for the powerful effect it has on our emotions, and we can’t imagine our lives without music. Yet we tend to know nothing about the intricate networks that neurons create throughout our brains to make music possible. The Musical Brain explores fascinating discoveries about the brain and music, often told through the stories of musicians whose lives have been impacted by the extraordinary ability of our brains to learn and adapt. Neuroscientists have been studying musicians and the process of making music since the early 1990s and have discovered a staggering amount of information about how the brain processes music. There have been many books discussing neuroscience and music, but this is the first to relate the research in a practical way to those individuals who make or teach music.


The Musician’s Brain

  • Music as Medicine

    Although Renée Fleming is best known as an internationally celebrated opera singer, she is also passionately interested in the intersection of the arts, health, and neuroscience.  A chance meeting in 2015 between Fleming and Dr. Francis Collins, then the director of the NIH, led to a collaboration between the NIH, Fleming, and the Kennedy Center.…

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  • Music in the NICU

    A friend who is a chaplain in a nearby hospital often sings to the premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  She does this because it just feels like the right thing to do. Don’t we always sing to babies to soothe and comfort them? And she notices that the babies immediately calm…

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  • The brain – and finding the beat

    I attended a spring concert a few weeks ago that prompted me to think about rhythm, movement, and the brain. The concert was at a very small private school (pre-school through grade 4) and was titled “Poetry Everywhere.” It was a mix of absolutely charming poetry written and read by the students and songs they…

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“The Musical Brain unfolds as an empowering journey of discovery into how music is part of us as human beings. Svard is genuinely interested in how the brain works, and she has collected, studied, understood, and presented in gratifying ways summaries of brain research in many areas that impact the study and performance of music.  A significant number of scientists and musicians, past and current, are generously embraced for their important work! This compelling book is a must-read for anyone interested in music!”

— Paavali Jumppanen, winner of the 2000 Young Concert Artists International Competition and
Artistic Director, Australian National Academy of Music