The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Release: Feb. 12, 2003

Gfeller To Speak On "Beauty And Meaning In Music" For Presidential Lecture

Kate Gfeller, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor in the University of Iowa School of Music and the department of speech pathology and audiology, will present the 2003 UI Presidential Lecture, "Beauty and Meaning in Music . . . Lend Me Your (Bionic) Ears," at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23 at the Levitt Center for University Advancement.

Gfeller is director of the UI music therapy program and is a member of the Iowa Cochlear Implant Team at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Among other projects, she has studied musical perception and enjoyment in deafened adults with cochlear implants.

Prior to the lecture, music will be performed by "Standard AIR," a jazz trio from the UI School of Music. The members of the group are trombonist John Rapson, the director of the UI Jazz Studies program; clarinetist Robert Paredes, an adjunct professor in Jazz Studies; and bassist Mark Urness, a doctoral candidate.

The acoustic trio concentrates on jazz standards that are sometimes neglected in the repertoire and on material that allows them to capitalize on their unusual instrumentation. They will Play Duke Ellington's "Echoes of Harlem" and "Mood Indigo."

In her lecture Gfeller will discuss the profound meaning that people find in music, based on the different perspectives she has gained through her professional work and research. "Music is a ubiquitous art form that exists in every known culture," she explained. "Although music is not essential for survival, Americans spend 12 billion dollars annually on sound recordings. We listen to music at home, in our cars, at concerts, in schools, at malls, at sporting events, in religious services, to celebrate key events in our lives and to express our deepest emotions.

"What makes music so meaningful and aesthetically pleasing to most people? The answer you receive is likely to vary depending upon the perspective of the person you ask. In my professional life, I have come in contact with at least three different contexts for observing the meaning of music. In my talk, I will share some of the lessons that I have learned about music from these different personal, cultural and disciplinary perspectives.

"As a faculty member in the School of Music, I study emotional and cognitive response to music. My colleagues in the School of Music address the question of musical meaning each day of their professional lives as they teach their students, create new compositions or perform for their listening public.

"As a faculty member in the department of speech pathology and audiology, and through my work on the Iowa Cochlear Implant Clinical Research Center, I have examined musical meaning from the standpoint of hearing acuity and how musical meaning is mitigated by modern-day technology, the cochlear implant.

"In my research at UI Hospitals and Clinics, I have had the privilege to interact with many people who once loved music, but who, as a result of a profound deafness, lost their access to music. They have shared with me perspectives that have deepened my own understanding of why music is such a powerful form of communication."

Gfeller has been on the UI faculty since 1985. She holds a joint appointment in the School of Music and the department of speech pathology and audiology. She is also an affiliate faculty member in aging studies and served the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as associate dean for faculty 1993-96.

Her primary research focus is music perception and aural rehabilitation of persons who have significant hearing losses. She is principal investigator for the Music Perception Project of the Iowa Cochlear Implant Research Project in the department of otolaryngology, UI Hospitals and Clinics. Her research in that area has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1990. She has also studied applications of music therapy for persons with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, through research funded by the Federal Administration on Aging. She has served on study sections for the National Institutes of Health.

Gfeller regularly presents papers at research meetings and for universities across the United States. She was appointed visiting research professor of the humanities at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia in 1997, has been an invited lecturer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, the Universidad de Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and the Conservatory of Music in Rio de Janeiro. She has also presented her research at international meetings in Canada, Ireland, and England. Her research is published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and she is co-author of "An Introduction to Music Therapy: Theory and Practice," now in its second edition and published in four languages.

In 2001, Gfeller received the Iowa Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence, and she was the recipient of the 1996 award for outstanding research bestowed by the National Association for Music Therapy. In 1991, she received the UI/ Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award for excellence in teaching and research. She was a CIC Academic Leadership Fellow in 1993.

At the UI she has served on the President's Council for Strategic Implementation, the Executive Committee of the College of Liberal Arts, the Governmental Relations Committee for the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Council, the Advisory Board for the American Sign Language Program and the Executive Committee for the School of Music. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Iowa City Hospice.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: (media) Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,; (program)