Naomi Woo is a prominent young Canadian conductor and pianist, recognized by CBC Radio, ARTV, and Flare magazine as a rising star on the Canadian classical music scene. Currently Assistant Conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Naomi is a finalist for the position of Artistic and Music Director of l'Orchestre Symphonique de l'Estuaire.
On the opera stage, she conducts the Canadian premiere of Du Yun’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Angel’s Bone in Vancouver, Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s The Night Falls in New York City, and assists at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Naomi holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. She has also studied mathematics, philosophy, and music at Yale College, the Yale School of Music, and Université de Montréal.
What do you get up to outside of work? “I ride my bicycle year-round, and am a board member of the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub. I swim outdoors every chance I get.”
What led you to your current role? “I started with an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at University College London (during which I carried out research stays in UCSD and Columbia university). Since 17, I have wanted to understand the root of who we are by studying the brain. I had been particularly fascinated by why as a species we produce and have an affinity for the arts.
An MSc and PhD at Goldsmiths University of London allowed me to specialise in music cognition and neuroscience. I carried out fellowships in Paris (Brain and Spine institute), New York (New York university), and Frankfurt (MPI for empirical aesthetics) before returning to Goldsmiths where I hold a lectureship in Psychology and run the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain.”
What do you enjoy outside of the institution? “Interest in the subject came from my own personal love of music and the arts and a fascination with how they have their effect on us. I like to read everything (about arts and culture), to take long walks with husband and friends, to host dinners (and be hosted), to travel to new places, and (very occasionally) to throw myself into playing piano or drawing/painting.”
Victoria Williamson is an independent scholar and consultant with a passion for understanding the psychology of music. She seeks answers to explain how music is processed by the brain and the ways in which music impacts on our minds, behaviours and wellbeing.
Victoria is trained in multiple academic disciplines having completed her Bachelors with Honours in Psychology at the University of York, Masters in the Psychology of Music at Sheffield and her PhD in the Psychology of Musical Memory (2008).
She has worked as a Professor of Performance Science at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland, a Lecturer at The University of Sheffield, and as a Visiting Scholar at The University of Rochester in New York, USA. Victoria has published over 30 peer-reviewed research papers on diverse aspects of music impact including memory, amusia, sleep, earworms and wellbeing.
Tell us a bit about yourself, outside of the institution: “My friends would describe me as a mixture of introverted and organised, alongside affectionate and artistic. My lifelong passion is music. I have my favourites as we all do, but I love listening to and learning about all genres.
I trained in classical Spanish guitar although I have dabbled in numerous instruments over the years. I spend my spare time cooking (I worked as a sous chef to pay for university), dancing (especially salsa. merengue and bachata), and reading biographies and travelogues. I enjoy travel and I aim to visit as much of the world as possible in my allotted time.”
Why does music have such an enormous impact on our minds and bodies? From its effect on our memories, to the science behind our favourite earworms and most heartfelt break-up songs, this series examines how music moves and changes us in unexpected ways.
Cognitive neuroscience is pushing boundaries and is now able to pinpoint specific signatures of the brain, differentiating between nuanced emotions like how we experience awe and beauty - vastly complex feelings that, until now, have been out of reach.