While many teachers may have words which inspire them, the life, teaching and research of School of Music professor Adam Con are all guided by an apparently simple motto: “Music is more than notes in motion; music is notes in emotion.”
But as with every motto, there’s more going on here than first meets the eye. “It’s all about being comfortable with the uncomfortable,“ Con explains. “All things are living, like language is living. Music is the same—you adjust to the moment, how the emotions are affecting you, how the music is working or not working. In Western culture, we think of music being static notes on the page, that we practice them to make them perfect and then perform them, and that’s it. But that doesn’t really make good music.”
The latest professor to join the School of Music, Dr. Adam Con is also a leader in the advocacy of music education, a conductor and a respected teacher of both choral conducting and Tai Chi Chuan. A third-generation Chinese Canadian, his holistic approach to choral music uses a unique blend of kinesthetic whole-body movement and Eastern philosophy to inspire singers of all ages in mind, body and spirit. Con also combines both his Tai Chi Chuan practice and neuroscience research in his choral work.
“It’s all about the flow and balance of harmony, the energy between a singer and conductor as we pass it back and forth,” he says. “The energy relates to how sounds are conveyed, so there’s a connection to what the singer emotes to the audience. My area of research is how neuroscience relates to motor neurons: how the human brain basically fires its synapses as a singer watches a conductor, and a conductor manipulates a singer’s brain, because it’s firing based on what actions they view . . . it’s in that creative process the magic happens.”
Con will be expounding on his practice and research when he presents the latest Dean’s Lecture at 12:30pm Friday, February 13, at the Central Library on Broughton Street. Hosted by UVic Continuing Studies, his free presentation—The Three Components of the Golden Elixir: Mirror Neurons, Tai Chi Chuan and Choral Singing—will explain how he combines and applies his research in those three key elements to provide a powerful elixir fostering a better quality of life.
Learning new things is one of the things Con likes best about the academic environment. “The richness of life is about connecting with other people, and finding your common interests,” he concludes. “It’s about the bigger questions in life—it’s more than about working across disciplines, it’s about thinking beyond our own expertise. How we intersect allows us to find answers to questions that are elusive to us and our society. It’s that constant openness to the possibility and the chance to see what serendipity can bring to the experience.”