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Carlehr Swanson at the piano on Mason's Fairfax Campus

Jazz studies major Carlehr Swanson developed a program called Music Is Unity that she shares in nursing homes and schools

She’s Got the Music in Her, and Wants to Share

Mason junior Carlehr Swanson has been singing all her life. And as Miss State Fair of Virginia, she sees the title as an opportunity to promote “Music Is Unity,” an initiative she created that is dedicated to bringing music to others.

“Music has always been something really close to my heart, and I found that during hard times in my life, music had been that positive outlet for me,” says the jazz studies major with a concentration in voice. “By establishing this platform, I’m able to share music with others who don’t typically get to experience it.”

Swanson, whose first name is pronounced Car-lee-ah, is a classically trained pianist. She reaches out to local public schools and nursing homes in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, to shine light on the benefits of music as an outlet for stress release and healing. She also performs.

“My first nursing home visit started when my grandmother fractured her back and was placed in a rehabilitation nursing home,” Swanson says. “I visited my grandmother every day, and soon realized some of the other patients didn’t have people visiting them. By having us there for an hour during their day, it really brightened their moods. Music truly has the ability to do that for people.”

That is the basis for Music Is Unity, which Swanson hopes to develop in schools in Virginia and across the country through music, theater, and arts programs.

Swanson believes that musicians have an obligation to share their talent with others, with the hope it will leave a lasting impression.

“A professor once told me that someone is going to come into our concert hall with a heart that needs mending, a mind that needs settling, and music will be able to fix that,” she says. “I know personally music for me has been that outlet.”

Darden Purcell, director of jazz studies in the School of Music, says, “Carlehr has such radiant energy, and I love that she is spreading her positivity musically. Music is a truly powerful expression, and I could not be more proud of her accomplishments giving back to the community."

By Natalie Kuadey. Read more Mason News.