Bryan Series speakers Levitin and Cash engage audience


Photo by Kenzie Frazier/The Guilfordian

Daniel Levitin and Roseanne Cash kept the Bryan Series audience engaged with witty banter and musical demonstrations.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, the Tanger Center in downtown Greensboro welcomed Bryan Series speakers Daniel Levitin, Ph.D., and award-winning singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash. The Bryan Series, a continuing tradition in the Guilford community, has been hosting speakers since 1996. The  2022-2023 season of the series started on Oct. 20, with Venus Williams as the first guest speaker.

The Nov. 10 Bryan Series event was the second one this season and proved to be a conversation on the brain science behind music, creativity and memory. Levitin and Cash gave their insight into topics they both have studied and experienced, and aimed to explain how our brains work to fuel creative processes and to make music. 

The speakers gave an informational and accessible 90-minute presentation on how the brain correlates with music. Levitin, a well-versed neurologist and musician, offered a more scientific approach, while Cash, the eldest daughter of Johnny Cash, offered insight into her personal experience with brain surgery in 2007 and how it affected her songwriting. 

Cash answered questions about how the surgery affected her creative process. She reflected on how the brain signals to her ears improved after having her surgery, and Levitin explained the brain activity that could be responsible for that sudden improvement in hearing. 

As the presentation continued, the speakers shifted to the topic of how our brains work in terms of memory. Cash connected songwriting to brain science, saying, “My last album was called ‘She Remembers Everything’… I think that somewhere we do remember everything.”

Levitin replied to this comment by providing specifics about how human memory works. He explained how our brains “prioritize” certain memories while we sleep and store the rest. Our brains prioritize what is most important throughout our day, he stated. 

 Between each topic of conversation, the crowd listened enthusiastically as Cash and Levitin played original pieces live on stage. Levitin played the acoustic guitar, while Cash sang country music. Audience members who were familiar with Cash’s music could be heard faintly singing along to her lyrics. The music in the presentation engaged the audience and provided a glimpse into the speakers’ musical talents. 

Banter and lively conversation continued as questions rolled in for the two speakers, ranging from “How early should a child begin to learn to play an instrument?” to an inquiry about Cash’s participation in a country music documentary. 

The night ended with a book signing featuring Cash that all audience members were welcome to attend.

The 2022-2023 season of the Bryan Series is far from over. The series will host more prominent guests throughout the year, welcoming immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett on Feb. 6, 2023 and investigative journalist Ronan Farrow on April 4, 2023.