“Music has such a huge impact on the brain and on emotions, which is just so interesting,” said Haley Lester ’20.
Lester is a music and psychology double major who has embraced the connections between these two disciplines, as she was able to join professor of psychology Dr. Laura Edelman’s research group, which investigates the connection between music and social bonding.
Lester, a Soprano 2 singer of classical music from Titusville, New Jersey, started singing in choirs when she was in middle school and continued through high school.
“We all remember [in] elementary school being forced into choirs in fourth and fifth grade, but then, when it became a choice, I just decided to continue doing it,” said Lester. “And I’ve enjoyed being able to grow it as a skill and to develop it more, especially at college where I’ve been able to get the free voice lessons as a music major. It’s been a really great experience.”
When Lester came to Muhlenberg, she started in College Choir, but knew she wanted to audition for the Women’s Ensemble. In the second semester of her freshman year, Lester was accepted.
After she declared her music major, Lester began to take lessons at Muhlenberg during her sophomore year with Patricia “Tricia” Koch Budlong.
“In my voice lessons with Tricia, she’ll first warm me up. We chat a little. She always asks how I am to make sure I am healthy, because if you’re not healthy you can’t sing as well,” said Lester.
Lester explained that her goals for the semester dictate the direction in which her voice lessons will be going.
“In previous semesters, I’ve worked toward student recitals, where I perform one piece at a time,” said Lester.
A yearly goal for her voice lessons is to prepare for the vocal student juries for vocal students, which occur at the end of every academic year. Additionally, this semester includes the ultimate goal of her senior recital.
Lester’s senior recital is set for Sunday, Mar. 15 at 3 p.m. in the Recital Hall. She will be singing two songs in English, the first by Henry Purcell and the second by Benjamin Britten. She will also be singing sets of songs in French and German with her final set in Hebrew, which was her own special addition.
“I wanted to relate [the recital] back to my life a little bit and add a little bit of my culture,” said Lester, who will be singing “Five Hebrew Love Songs” by Eric Whitacre.
On the days she does not have voice lessons, Lester practices on her own. However, even when she is not formally rehearsing, she still likes to apply what she has learned from her lessons when she is singing prayers during Friday night Shabbat services at Hillel.
“I enjoy trying to think about things from my voice lessons, like the space you give to notes or putting it up higher for myself just because it’s fun,” said Lester.
Lester explained that Muhlenberg “allowed [her] to pursue my passion [for music] while still getting an education in it.”
“[Muhlenberg has] expanded my knowledge on the subject while also allowing me to have an avenue where I knew I would have a solid career going forward having the double majors of psychology and music,” Lester added.
Lester’s future plan is to attend graduate school for school counseling, as she was influenced by her middle school counselor to enter a similar field. Graduate school in this discipline still gives Lester the opportunity to connect her music background if she decides to do so, much like the research she is working on currently allows.
To hear Lester’s culmination of her music major, be sure to attend her senior recital this March.