Florida State University
 

In one case, a person sees a the letter "a" as pink, "b" as blue, and "c" as green, no matter the color of ink they are printed with. In another, the taste of espresso coffee makes the subject see a pool of dark green oily fluid about two feet in front of him. These are examples of synesthesia.

The Latin prefix syn and a variation of the Greek word aisthesis form the term synesthesia, a condition in which normally discrete senses are cross-wired so that, for example, colors are heard or touch produces taste. Senior music therapy student Rachel Dinkel enters the world ofsynesthesia in her honors thesis, "An Exploratory Study Investigating Synesthesia among Music Majors and Non-Music Majors, and Males and Females."

Mining her interest in the intersection of music and neurology, Dinkel says her research allowed her to investigate how music therapy might relate to synesthesia, a proposition she intends to pursue. "I hope to discover ways that music therapists can work with patients/clients with synesthesia to better their therapy sessions," says Dinkel, 22, who attended Royal Palm Beach High School.

Even before she graduates, Dinkel is discovering a ready audience for her findings to date. "I am very excited about presenting my research in three different venues," she says, including a poster session at the Sensation to Emotion Conference in New York City and a 60-minute presentation at the American Music Therapy Association's Southeastern Region Conference in Marietta, Georgia, as well as at The Florida State University's Undergraduate Research Symposium, all held during the spring semester of 2009. "This semester is my first opportunity to get in front of a group and talk about a subject that I find fascinating," she says.

In music therapy, which emphasizes vocal and guitar music, Dinkel found a harmonious blend of her interests. "I decided I wanted to pursue this after learning it was a profession where I could use my musical abilities to help people as a therapist and counselor," says Dinkel, whose principal instrument is bassoon, and she also played trombone with the Marching Chiefs for two years. "Working with a variety of people to better their quality of life is very appealing to me in a profession, and this major allows me to do it and use my music as well."

After completing a six-month music therapy internship at Big Bend Hospice, Dinkel expects to graduate in fall 2009. "After my graduation in December I plan on returning to Florida State in the spring of 2010 for graduate study in Music Therapy," she says.

It was the College of Music that originally attracted Dinkel to Florida State. "As I have progressed through my major, I have enjoyed working closely with top professors and having the opportunity to do undergraduate research under them," she says.

Dinkel has served as president of the Alpha Mu Alpha Music Therapy Organization since fall 2007. The group hosts guest speakers to discuss topics in the field, sponsors projects in the community, and works on building their music repertoire to better prepare for internships and the professional world, she says.

"I am most proud of coming to college and really gaining an education, and I have actively pushed myself to make the most out of each class and opportunity presented to me," she says. "Coming to Florida State has shaped me into the person I am today, and I owe that not only to the education I've gained in the classroom but also to the opportunities available to me outside of courses."

Dinkel looks forward to one day working as a professional music therapist with older adults or with adolescents and teens. "These two populations fascinate me, and I really enjoy working with them," she explains.

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