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Music student awarded prestigious scholarship to Cambridge

Music student awarded prestigious scholarship to Cambridge University


An Auckland student with a passion for music and science has been awarded a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue postgraduate study in the United Kingdom.

Ella Tunnicliffe-Glass, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Music (Hons) from the University of Auckland this week, will begin a Masters of Philosophy at the Centre for Music and Science at Cambridge University in October.

The 22 year-old Epsom resident initially planned to become a doctor but turned down a place at medical school to do conjoint Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and Bachelor of Music (Classical Performance) degrees. A talented musician, Ella plays the flute, baroque flute, and French horn.

For her Bachelor of Music (Hons) dissertation she used EEG to examine the electrical activity of the brains of people with and without absolute pitch. A rare phenomenon, absolute pitch (also called perfect pitch) is characterised by the ability to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone. It has a higher prevalence among certain groups, for instance, people with autism spectrum disorders.

“We know that listening to music activates many areas of the brain, and that musicians’ brains are significantly different to non-musicians’ brains. However, there is still much to be learnt about the processes driving these changes, and how these might be harnessed for therapeutic use,” she says.

With a keen interest in neuroplasticity, or the ways the brain can change itself, Ella hopes her masters degree will act as a springboard for further study in the field of neuromusicology, or music and the brain, and the ways that could benefit people. Ella was granted the full-cost scholarship from over 3,500 applications worldwide.

The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the Elam School of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and Planning, the Centre for Art Studies, the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.

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