by Wendi Wheeler ’06
As a first-year student at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., Betsy Norell was majoring in communication studies and singing in the choir. But she had no idea what she wanted to do with her education.
Then her brother suggested she look into the field of music therapy. “I job-shadowed some music therapists here in the Twin Cities, and I fell in love with it.” So she transferred to Augsburg and jumped right into the music therapy program.
In her first year at Augsburg, Norell has worked on three research projects, including one with visiting professor, Dale Taylor. Taylor, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is known in the field for his study of the biomedical theory of music therapy, which examines the physiological effects of music on the human body.
Together, Norell and Taylor are studying saliva. More specifically, they are studying the presence of salivary immunoglobulin A, or SIgA, an immune system indicator present in saliva. They are looking to see if the level changes after a music therapy session to show how music affects the immune system.
Norell appreciates the opportunity to work with an expert in the field and to explore where “music meets science,” she says. “It’s cool to step out of my comfort zone and into the lab.” Ralph Butkowski, an instructor in the biology department at Augsburg, has also been working with Norell on her summer research project and is helping her analyze the samples she collects.
The support and direction of all the faculty have been helpful to Norell, but she especially enjoys the hands-on experience of watching her professors work with clients in actual music therapy sessions. “It’s the best way to learn,” she says.
“To hear their miracle stories is amazing,” Norell adds. “They are an inspiration.”