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Marcin Wisniewski

College: Hunter College
Awards: Fulbright U.S. Student Program, 2012

Discovering His Sounding Board

First there was Metallica, then a guitar, then classical music and now curiosity about the emerging field of sound therapy, which uses music and other sounds to heal the body. With a 2012 Hunter College master of arts in music performance degree in hand, Marcin Wisniewski will be off to Switzerland to study this new treatment medium, thanks to a U.S. Student Fulbright grant for the next academic year.

“This technique is not well known in the States,” says Wisniewski, who also earned a bachelor of music degree from Hunter College in 2010. “It uses sound in a different way to effect a physical response, not just a psychological response, as with many other musical therapy interventions that are well known,” he says.

The most widely publicized use of sound therapy is with tinnitus, the perception of ringing when there is no corresponding external source. An estimated one in five people aged 55 to 65 hear this ringing; the prime cause appears to be prolonged exposure to loud noise, from construction work to rock music heard via earphones.

Sound therapists contend that playing electronically filtered music can exercise the muscles of the inner ear and reopen pathways to the brain. Classical music’s complex rhythms, melodies and harmonies can retrain the brain to a normal way of hearing, they say, adding that the right treatment with sound also can allay a variety of other ailments. Wisniewski will study sound therapy at a clinic in southern Switzerland.

“I’m not sure I will end up on this path, but music therapy interests me. It’s such a new field,” he says. “In any case, I wish to continue being a performer and a composer.”

Wisniewski first picked up his brother’s guitar at about 12, when he was into rock and metal and pretended he was playing. Then he found instructional information on the Web – “a lot harder to do before YouTube” – and began learning the instrument.

“By the time I was getting out of high school, I was playing two or three hours every day,” he says, “but I had no idea I’d want to do music as a career.”

Over time, he gravitated to increasingly complex music and “became interested in looking at music as an art, rather than something that’s purely pleasing. I became interested in the beauty that complexity brings.”

That drew him into classical guitar music, including the works of modern composers like Ástor Piazzolla, an Argentine who revolutionized traditional tango with jazz and classical music.

Born in Poland, Wisniewski emigrated to New York City with his family when he was a child. His brother earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Hunter, where his mother also studied before earning a bachelor’s in nursing at Adelphi University. As a result, Hunter became his prime destination for his undergraduate and master’s work.

His Fulbright to Switzerland for the 2012-2013 academic year will bring him back to Europe, where he has wanted to return for an extended stay. “I’m going into this with an open mind and seeing where life takes me.”

For Wisniewski’s performance of a solo classical work, “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega, go to Link text

For his performance “Mumuki” by Ástor Piazzolla, go to Link text

For his performance of Piazzolla’s “Primavera Portena,” go to Link text