PDP: Fireside Chat with Dr. Schaeffer

Section: Participating in the Honors Community 

At seven o’clock pm on October nineteenth, I sat with some fellow students in the Larzelerian B’Lobby, huddled up in a circle with tea and cookies in order to discuss Dr. Schaeffer’s experiences with music and how she’s seen its positive impacts on the mind at different stages of development. In all honesty, 70 percent of the reason I signed up for this event was because I heard the words ‘free tea’ and ‘fireside.’ Unfortunately, the fireside was left out of the picture due to it being a fire hazard, but the discussions we had over the next hour made up for the lack of cozy, crackling logs on the hearth.

Dr. Schaeffer’s lead into our quali-tea time began with a reflection on how her students were inspired by the ideas behind Alive Inside, a documentary following the effects of music from Alzheimer’s patients childhoods on their memory. She explained that the parts of the brain that had not become inoperative would take over and recreate the memory of the song and allow the individual to remember lyrics on some occasions – enough to make creating playlists on individualized iPods a therapeutic way to use music in nursing homes. The science behind the findings is too complex for me to recall, and I don’t want to put anything into words that I strain to remember for fear I will misinterpret it, but I was so happy to be in a circle of people who actually cared about this sort of thing. There were maybe twenty-five honors students in the B’Lobby, and many of us had questions and comments to lend to the conversation. No one seemed judgemental of the topic, everyone was open to the experimental ideas and data, and most people wanted to enroll in the class Dr. Schaeffer teaches on the subject once the chat came to a close.

I’m honestly so thankful that the fireside chat was an honors experience. I didn’t think that having the honors community exclusively attending would make much of a difference, but at the end of the day, had the event happened anywhere else, I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable speaking up and asking questions. Somewhere around the halfway point, I started hoping that some people who hadn’t spoken up yet would, because every time the conversation dulled I began to ask a new question to the point where I was probably monopolizing the conversation (partially in order to remove any possibility of an awkward silence and partially because I always have questions).

Afterward, I felt that it was a really interesting and very productive way to learn things, since questions weren’t only encouraged, but were how the learning was based. I wasn’t as engaged as I could’ve been with everything that was happening, and I attribute that mostly to how the chairs were set up – the circular system was nice, but too large since a bunch of people were there and that created an issue of distance from the speaker.

All in all, I would definitely go to another Fireside Chat, but mostly just to see if I could get more dedicated to the talk. Maybe it just didn’t click the first time. Second time should be a charm!


Much love,


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