NWU student hopes to leverage musical talent for Alzheimer’s research
A Nebraska Wesleyan University student is hoping that her passion for family and music could one-day provide breakthrough research for Alzheimer’s patients.
Lilly Frields is a junior from Nebraska City, Neb. majoring in psychology with minors in music and biology. She says that seems like an unlikely combination of programs to study, but for her it’s not. She was inspired by her 98-year-old great-great grandmother.
“She had Alzheimer’s. I watched her as a little kid go through that but didn’t understand it. I used to go into the nursing home and play piano and sing for the residents,” she says. “I didn’t understand it as a 7-year-old how much of an impact it really had. Seeing how much of an impact music has especially with the elderly, made me want to go into something like that.”
At NWU, Frields showcases her talents beyond the keyboard. She plays tenor sax for the jazz band, clarinet for the concert band and sings in the choir.
Frields would like to do more than just perform with her music. She says she wants to use it to help people heal. During the summer of 2023, she enrolled in a 3-week study abroad trip to Rwanda where she saw first-hand how music can help improve quality of life.
“The majority of these teachers that I worked with and interviewed started out as HIV patients within this clinic. Because they showed success in the music therapy program, they healed and then they decided to become music teachers to help children heal.”
She says she hopes she can model what she learned in Rwanda in the U.S. “There’s a steady increase in rehabilitation care facilities where they use music for residents to get them to stay connected with their community.”
Frields says she eventually wants to be a university researcher and professor that can help deliver solutions for future students and patients with Alzheimer’s.