Congratulations to Dr. Molly Gebrian for receiving the 2022 Early Career Scholars Award! Dr. Gebrian is a professional violist with a background in neuroscience. She has combined these two passions by studying and applying the science of learning and memory to practice and performing. Her work and research on the science of practicing and the intersection of early language acquisition and music has been published in journals and magazines such as The Strad, Journal of the American Viola Society, Frontiers in Psychology, and the Oxford Handbook of Music and the Brain.
As a musician and violist, her performance has focused on marginalized composers and groups that are traditionally underrepresented in classical music. Her first album, recorded with Danny Holt in 2017 was highly regarded and included in a list of top 100 albums by music critic Ted Gioia. She holds degrees for neuroscience and viola from Oberlin College, her masters in viola performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, and her DMA from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Her principal teachers have included Pete Slowik, Carol Rodland, James Dunham, and Garth Knox.
When asked what led her to pursue two branches of study that some might consider very different, Dr. Gebrian noted that it all began in her undergraduate studies when she attended a neuroscience seminar and was immediately hooked. She decided to double-major in viola and neuroscience but did not have plans to pursue neuroscience after graduation. Once in her master’s program at the New England Conservatory, she began to feel unbalanced without her neuroscience studies which were not offered at the conservatory. However, they did allow her to independently study and research the brain in conjunction with music. When she got into Rice University, Gebrian was able to take graduate level courses and continue her studies in neuroscience while she finished her DMA in Viola performance. She was also able to teach a class about music and the brain and continue the independent studies she had begun at the conservatory. While career has not looked the way she originally expected, she is glad to be able to use both of her interests.
Dr. Gebrian also hosts a popular YouTube channel on the science of practice. Her hope is that students will learn how to practice more effectively so that they can perform confidently and achieve their musical goals. She finds that when students are unable to perform as well as they would like to, it usually stems from how they are practicing. She hopes that her work and videos would help equip students to be able to play the way they would like to. She is excited for her book on the neuroscience of practicing for Oxford University Press to be published in 2024 and is looking forward to continuing her research, presentations, and creating resources to help students and musicians practice better.
Her YouTube channel can be found at this link: https://www.youtube.com/@DrMollyGebrian
Article by Isabelle Joy Knowles