Singing to Heal

Jonah Levi-Paesky

Jonah Levi-Paesky ’17 

Music has played a front-and-center role in Jonah Levi-Paesky ’17’s life, and he’s long been fascinated with human behavior and mental health. Below, he discusses his research on the healing properties of singing as well as his favorite classes, his Argentinean roots and more.


Psychology and music.

Clubs and organizations:

Octals (vice president), Liberty Cap Society and Mermaid Players.

Favorite book:

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Favorite movie:

There are way too many to choose just one!

On choosing a major:

The process of double majoring could have been a tricky one, but the support from faculty and staff in both of my departments, especially from Professor [of Music] Jennifer Blyth, actually made the decision quite easy for me. I felt drawn to the psychology major because I have always felt a deep passion for the advocacy and understanding of mental health. I then decided to add my music major simply because music has always rested at the center of my world. Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly singing or thinking about music, and I would have regretted not allowing myself the opportunity to immerse myself in it further.

Favorite place on campus:

The practice rooms in Weiss, when it’s very late at night.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Sriracha chicken.

Favorite classes:

First, a seminar in psychology research methods [taught by Lecturer in Psychology] Michele Ford, a licensed psychologist and an incredible professor. My first class with her was Psychopathology, and I loved her method of teaching so much that I jumped at the opportunity to work with her again in a seminar setting. In Research Methods, we actually got to learn how to administer, score and analyze various clinical and counseling assessments, an opportunity that psychology students generally do not have until graduate school. Professor Ford made the content extremely accessible, and she made a conscious effort to connect with all the students in the class.

I also loved Canonical Outsiders with Professor of Music Amy Wlodarski, whom I consider a genius. Our seminar covered the exclusivity of the musical canon and its sociocultural implications. Professor Wlodarski showed me how music, both studying it and performing it, can lead to activism.

Little-known fact about me:

A lot of people are not aware that I am a first-generation American and speak fluent Spanish. I am very proud of my Argentinean roots, on both my mother and father’s sides of the family.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to challenge yourself by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Although it can be scary, you have to learn to trust yourself enough to take a leap of faith.

About my research:

Combining my two areas of study, my senior capstone project focuses on the healing properties of the human voice. I am analyzing psychological, medical and musicological research to understand how the voice, as an innately human property, contains therapeutic qualities that other instruments do not.

I chose this project because singing has always been intensely therapeutic for me. With help from my senior capstone advisor, Professor [of Music] Robert Pound, I decided on the topic of the voice as a mechanism for healing, and I have been happily drowning in research ever since. Working on this project helps me understand the intricacies of doing research, particularly research that intersects different fields. It has been an incredibly challenging experience, but very rewarding.

I also have been given the opportunity to do multiple psychological studies throughout my time at Dickinson. Currently, I am working with some other students on a social-psychological study exploring the relationship between perceptions of stigma, held by alcohol abusers, through a stigma reminder. [We are studying] their levels of anxiety and their cognitive depletion and attitudes toward seeking treatment.

As a kid, I wanted to be …

… a famous singer/actor (and it is a dream I haven’t given up on!).

Post-Dickinson plans:

I want to continue to combine my love of psychology and the arts. One exciting possibility is to study music therapy or voice pathology. I’m also interested in applying my knowledge of human behavior to public relations and marketing for the arts community. No matter which path I choose, I know I will also continue to perform and satisfy my childhood dream of singing and acting.

Proudest accomplishment so far:

Probably, receiving my diploma.

Learn more


Published May 10, 2017