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Florida State University


"I was stunned to learn I was the recipient of such a prestigious award," says Audrey Selph. The Presser, the College of Music's top award, is given to a student who exhibits excellence in both music and academic performance.

Audrey, however, should not be surprised. She is pursuing two undergraduate degrees – Music Performance and Music Therapy – and doing superbly in both. "It's often a juggling act, as each requires a serious commitment of time and musicianship." Although the double course load is an extra challenge, she has "found great joy in using music across a wide spectrum—from one-on-one therapy sessions with a client lying in a hospital bed to performing solo works for an audience. The atmosphere and goals are vastly different, but the care I take is the same."

Spending anywhere from four to eight hours a day playing the viola, guitar, and violin, Audrey studies her craft in the practice room. Asked if she ever tires of practicing, she answers, "Physically tired, maybe, but never bored. One of the great things about music is that there is always room to grow."

Then there is the sheer quantity of music that players must learn. Currently, Audrey performs in a string quartet, as a principal of the University Symphony Orchestra, and for the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. For Florida State and the local community, she performs in various ensembles—from Irish fiddling to new music. "Playing in groups," she says, "enhances the performance experience by adding chemistry through musical interaction. When groups—from duets to huge orchestras—can work together for a homogenous sound, the end product is as satisfying for the performers as it is for the audience." 

Creative energy also exists in Music Therapy. Its essential goal is to increase quality of life, whether for a premature infant or an Alzheimer's patient. Like physical therapy, music can act as a reward for performing painful exercises, or as a guide for gait training or joint flexibility. Song lyrics are used to conduct a life review with a patient to decrease isolation and increase time orientation, or to help children with special needs learn daily tasks. "My goal," says Audrey, "is to create an appropriate interpretation of the music that the client prefers, which will open the door for communication and interaction."

"The same could be said for performance," she says. "I interpret music to interact with my fellow performers and to communicate with the audience. Despite age, race, or background, music has the power to soothe, comfort, and inspire."

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