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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Isolation is a chance to connect with music, each other, EWU professor says

Jody Graves, an Eastern Washington University music professor, discusses the power of music during a Northwest Passages community forum on Friday. (YouTube)

Music can connect communities and relieve anxiety. For many, it could help them get through the stress of a pandemic.

So said Jody Graves, an Eastern Washington University music professor, in an interview conducted Friday as part of a livestreamed Northwest Passages Book Club forum.

Graves said music carried her through many difficult times in life, and she believes it can help others adjusting to isolation. She also recommended those struggling with isolation and stress learn to play or sing music and use it as a tool to connect with others.

Graves ended up in foster care as a teenager, and she said playing the piano helped her feel less alone and make sense of the world. She said listening to music, relearning old skills or learning a new instrument may help deal with the anxiety of a public health crisis and give people a skill going forward.

“Listening to music certainly brings a sort of calmness, peacefulness, joy and an ignition of energy,” she said. “But when you’re participating, when you’re part of something, making music together actually boosts the endorphins.”

Graves said no one is too old to learn, and many teachers are making tutorials and putting them on the internet or are accepting new students online. Live concerts and theater are also now available for people to stream, giving people more opportunities to connect when they can’t see a symphony or their favorite artist in person.

Graves said anyone can use their voice to make music, but also recommended people break out their old instruments if they have them, consider contacting people in the community or email her directly at if they don’t have access to an instrument.

She said those skills will be something positive people can bring out of a rough time, and could give them something special to connect with others over, when they can’t physically be together.

“There is this vibration that happens when you hear a song,” she said. “All of the sudden you’re overcome with emotion and sometimes you don’t even know why, but there’s a deeper memory that resonates, even in our physiology that affects our immune system in a positive way.

“That’s so important right now as we’re in isolation because it makes us feel connected to something that matters, something that ties us together in our collective experience.”