Student Profile: Bronwyn Bird

By 
Brenda Pike
December 23, 2008
Bronwyn Bird<br><b>Hometown:</b> Doylestown, PA<br><b>Major:</b> Music Therapy<br><b>Instrument:</b> Nyckelharpa
When Bird plays, her toes tap, her skirt swings, and it looks like she can hardly keep from dancing.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Nyckelharpa isn't a principal instrument at Berklee, so nyckelharpist Bronwyn Bird is technically listed as a violin principal. "It's fairly unrelated, except that it uses a bow," says Bird. "But I take lessons from violin teachers here." String Department chair Matt Glaser has helped her adapt the Swedish folk instrument for different styles of music.

Bronwyn Bird's "Burbank St."

As passionate as Bird is about her instrument of choice, she's equally passionate about another calling: music therapy. But, at heart, she doesn't see the two as very different. Both folk traditions and music therapy involve a connection to the community that Bird feels deeply.

How did you become interested in music therapy?

I came here thinking I was going to do performance, but I took the Intro to Music Therapy class with Kimberly Khare, and I was sold. I didn't know anything about music therapy before coming to Berklee, but I've always been very involved in folk music, which is a lot about making connections with people. I've also been really interested in sociology, and the intro class just connected those two together and shared how music can be used to create connections.

How did you discover the nyckelharpa?

I went to a Swedish dance class in Pennsylvania, and the teachers brought it in to show the kind of music that would be played for Swedish dancing. I just fell in love with it. The resonant strings just make it special. I actually ended up going, before Berklee, to Sweden for a year specifically to study nyckelharpa—to a little folk music school that had 12 nyckelharpa students and 12 dancers. Absolutely amazing. The school was in the middle of nowhere, so it gave me the opportunity to just focus on the music. I got really grounded in that tradition, and it set me up well for coming here, because then I wanted to try other kinds of music: jazz, ragtime, bluegrass. I love dancing, so any kind of music that can be paired with dancing.

What had the biggest impact on you here at Berklee?

Little things that happened through Berklee but aren't directly in Berklee, like the different practicum sites that I go to, have definitely been the most fun and the biggest expansion of my learning. Also, the band that I'm in (Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers) are all members from Berklee, and they hugely impacted my life. We all met through Berklee, just jamming and as friends, and we realized that we all played together so much that we might as well actually play out. Those are the two things that I'm doing right now: the band and music therapy, and neither of those were in my life before Berklee.

What are you planning on doing after you graduate?

This is my last semester, and I have to do an internship. I just applied for the Community Music Center of Boston. They have a lot of different things going on there, but the three main people I would be working with oversee three different areas. One of them works with adults in psychiatric settings, the other works with kids with autism, and the third one works at a place called Sparks, which is like an early intervention daycare. That's what I like: a full range of people. I'd like the ability to work with everyone.

Ideally, if everything is going well with the band, I'd love to focus on that for a little while after my internship. Long term, down the road, I'd really like to open my own community music center that would have all the creative art therapies in it—music therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy—and it would also teach about the different folk art traditions. I have friends who are studying these different types of therapy, so I'm hoping we can come together and make that happen somewhere.

Bronwyn's Top 5 Nyckelharpists

  1. Eric Sälström
  2. Olov Johansson
  3. Peter Hedlund
  4. Johan Hedin
  5. Byss-Calle