Patricia Gray, Biomusic Research Initiative


Dr. Pat Gray directs UNCG’s BioMusic Research Initiative. Her latest project is UBEATS, a program that brings students to STEM through a focus on music and nature.

UBEATS: A BioMusic STEM Intervention for ESL Students in Guilford County

The current iteration of UBEATS offers students enrolled in ESL programming in grades 4-8 a structured learning environment using interdisciplinary STEM content, multimodal instruction grounded in creative uses of information and communication technologies. Students are invited to explore a variety of STEM areas (e.g., biology, physics, animal communication, evolution, neuroscience, psychology,) by using techniques that underscore connections between music and mind, body, and the natural world.

Weeklong summer camps at McNair Elementary School followed by Academic Year UBEATS Clubs at the GSC provide a continuum of learning designed to include real world relevancy with specialized scientific inquiry grounded in the recommended principles and practices of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study as well as the National Science Education Standards. Manipulation of technology critical to careers in sound delivery and research broaden students’ concepts of STEM opportunities. Encounters with diverse animal cultures engage students from a wide range of cultural perspectives in discovery research that deepens their understanding of science in their lives.

Grounded in current BioMusic science research and using learning research methods, the UBEATS inquiry-based curriculum and programming activities was developed with a National Science Foundation grant. It allows students to explore music as a complex communication system through the manipulation of sound files and analysis programs, creating/sharing sound files and podcasts, and working collaboratively through a website that supports active engagement in research of the sonic world. ESL Students who are typically challenged with conceptual learning of science by a limited understanding of academic English, access new ways to approach scientific inquiry and learning through this innovative multi-modal learning context. The program is a partnership between The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) Office of Research and Engagement, the UNCG Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC), the Guilford County School System’s McNair Elementary School (Title I), and the Greensboro Science Center (GSC).

The current version of UBEATS is made possible thanks to the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

UBEATS: Universal BioMusic Education Achievement Tier in Science

UBEATS began as a BioMusic formal education initiative funded by the National Science Foundation ($374,000) as a Discovery Research K-12 exploratory project and was a collaboration of UNCG and North Carolina State University.

The first iteration of UBEATS was a 2 ½ year curriculum development project that focused on the ‘science of music’ for elementary grades 2 to 5. Two teams of in-service teachers comprised of science teachers and music teachers developed innovative modules for upper and lower elementary grades that conform to national science and music standards. The lessons featured inquiry-based learning that built science-processing skills through investigations of the natural world’s musicality. In July 09, UNCG hosted a UBEATS Summer Institute for 20 teachers and 25 students to introduce the curriculum and to launch a UBEATS Teacher Cohort in the Guilford County Schools and surrounding school districts to beta-test the curriculum during AY09/10.

Virtual Mentors included: Roger Payne (whale songs) Ocean Alliance; Steve Nowicki (bird songs) Duke University; Don Hodges (music/brain) UNCG; and Doug Quin (bioacoustics) Syracuse University; Tecumseh Fitch (animal communication), U of Vienna.

Advisors included:
Dr. John Bransford
College of Education
University of Washington

Dr. Cynthia Williamson
Director, Curriculum, Instruction & Technology
North Carolina Dept. of Public Instruction

Ms. Christie Ebert
Arts Education Consultant
North Carolina Dept of Public Instruction

Dr. Sam Houston
North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center
Research Triangle Park

Consultants include: Ms. Zebetta King, NC Science Teacher of the Year 2009; Mr. Philip Blackburn, composer and bioacoustician.

BioMusic/Bonobo Music Research

Dr. Patricia Gray & Dr. Ed Large (University of Connecticut) 

This research project, which began in 2002, focuses on the music making capacities of our closest primate cousins, bonobos (Pan paniscus), and represents a path-breaking integration of scientific inquiriesabout the primal roots of music-making and non-verbal communication. Working with a group of bonobos at the Ape Cognition & Conservation Institute in Iowa (including the famous bonobo, Kanzi, who has performed with Peter Gabriel and Paul McCartney), Dr. Gray continues rhythmic entrainment research begun at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens with her colleague, Dr. Ed Large. The research informs our understandings of music cognition and perception, origins of culture, and theory of mind.
The research expands our theoretical knowledge of the evolution of temporal dynamics in non-human primates and contributes to new perspectives on the musical capacities of other species.
from Quanta Magazine

Read about this research in the Quanta Magazine, March 22, 2016 article “The Beasts That Keep the Beat.”

BioMusic Science Exhibition and Public Programs Project

Dr. Patricia Gray, Clinical Professor and Senior Research Scientist

In 2004, the National Science Foundation awarded $2.7 million for the development and premiere of the BioMusic Exhibition and Public Programs, “Wild Music: Sounds and Songs of Life”, for informal science centers nationwide and their communities. Created to explore the ‘music of nature and the nature of music’ – the science exhibit, including multi-cultural music performances, and new commissioned works, premiered in 2007 and is touring for the next 6 years to 18 major metropolitan areas including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Raleigh, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, and Boston, providing families and students with opportunities for integrated music and science experiences. Collaborative partners include National Musical Arts, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Association of Science-Technology Centers, and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. For more information, go tohttp://wildmusic.orgLink opens in new window.

BioMusic Formal Education Initiative

Dr. Patricia Gray, PI; Dr. David Teachout, Co-PI

The MRi and the North Carolina State University’s Kenan Fellows Program received $374,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation for an exploratory 2 ½ year project titled, UBEATS. The project incorporates BioMusic into 2 modules for elementary math and science curricula and enables science and music teachers to collaborate to teach students about biodiversity, physics of sound, human evolution, and cultural diversity. The inquiry-based curriculum aligns with National Science and National Music Standards and interfaces with “Wild Music,” the BioMusic Science Exhibition and Public Programs Project. The modules and supporting materials are accessible here:

BioAcoustic Sound Archive Acquisition

Dr. Patricia Gray & Dr. Donald Hodges

The BioAcoustic Sound Archive Project will create a major resource for recorded mappings of the world’s sonic resources at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This BioAcoustic Archive Project will initially focus on The Roger Payne Sound Archive, the lifetime work of Dr. Roger Payne, internationally renowned whale song researcher and expert. This archive represents an invaluable collection of sound recordings of the ocean’s largest inhabitants and is one of the largest and most comprehensive whalesong sound libraries. The collection includes spectrograms, raw data, and recordings, which are analyzed musically and scientifically, and integrated with ongoing BioMusic research centered on the evolution of musical communication systems. The Archive also actively seeks to inspire new, imaginative uses of its sounds through music and multi-disciplinary projects.

Wired for Music Pilot Project

Wired for Music was a BioMusic education project in an after-school setting for Middle School Students at Ferndale Middle School in High Point NC, a Title One School. The project, a collaboration of the Music Research Institute, WUNC-TV, and the North Carolina Museum of Science, was an extension of PBS’ The Music Instinct: Science and Song, and funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Burroughs-Welcome Fund and the NC Center for Science & Math supporting a series of UNC-TV broadcasts about the project.

Wired for Music inspired kids (grades 6-8) to explore the science of music research from a variety of fields by using techniques that reveal new connections between music and the human mind, the body, and the world. Through an array of musics from rock and rap to jazz and classical, students put music under the microscope. The workshops presented during AY09/10 were led by a UNCG Ph.D music candidate and a UNCG science teacher alumna and explored topics ranging from rhythm, emotion, pitch, memory, and harmony. The project culminated with a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences where the students made public presentations about their discoveries.

Dr. Patricia Gray, director of UNCG’s BioMusic research program, holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory (BM), the University of Wisconsin/ Madison (MM), and from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (DMA). She served as Artistic Director and Pianist of National Musical Arts (NMA), the resident ensemble at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, for 21 seasons. In 1986, she founded and served as Director of NMA’s BioMusic Program. As a pianist, Gray has performed at The White House with the National Symphony, is the recipient of the prestigious Franz Liszt Commemorative Medal from the government of Hungary, has been a soloist with leading orchestras, and has collaborated in performances with renowned composers and performers.

As director of UNCG’s BioMusic Program, Pat Gray led a team of distinguished scientists and musicians that explore the musical sounds in all species. In 2000, the BioMusic Program presented at the annual meeting of the AAAS, and was the subject of a symposium hosted by the National Zoological Park and the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Gray is the lead author of BioMusic articles in the journal, Science, and has presented Biomusic research in the NYTimes, BBC, CBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, The Boston Globe, London Daily Telegraph, NPR’s Science Friday, Smithsonian Magazine, and international media. Dr. Gray served as Principal Investigator (PI) for a National Science Foundation funded Planning Grant focused on development of a BioMusic science exhibition, and Co-PI for a $3 million multi-year implementation award from the National Science Foundation to realize Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life, a multi-year tour of the science exhibition for informal science centers nationwide, the public programs, and the website. Since 2002, she has pursued music research with great apes, specifically bonobos (Pan paniscus), the first research to empirically demonstrate evidence of beat entrainment in great apes. In 2004, Dr. Gray joined UNCG’s Music Research Institute to continue her BioMusic research. Dr. Gray was PI for a multi-year grant (2008-11) from the National Science Foundation to develop BioMusic curriculum for elementary grades (UBEATS), a collaborative project between UNCG and North Carolina State University. She is Director of the BioMusic International Research and Education Program (BIREP) based in Mexico’s Yucatan that engages in international collaborative research of marine animals and environs.

In 2002, Dr. Gray was appointed Senior Specialist by the Fulbright Program, the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and the Council for International Exchange of Scholars to serve as a special consultant to foreign institutions and organizations worldwide. She is also acclaimed as an Executive Producer of international concerts with 18 foreign Embassies, a companion concert for an international touring art exhibition about Mexico’s cultural history, and productions with the National Broadcasting Company, Inc., the Motion Picture Association, ASCAP, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Smithsonian, the Getty Conservation Institute (included foreign research grant to India), and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (included foreign research grant to South Africa and Zimbabwe).