By combining her interest in psychology with her love of music, Elle Chrampanis '24 is enhancing learning opportunities for children. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications
"Having the freedom to pursue two degrees has allowed me to combine my varied interests."
Cellist Elle Chrampanis '24 always knew that music would be part of her life, even if her career path would lead elsewhere. Her Little Silver, N.J., high school offered a four-year visual and performing arts program that enabled her to major in strings and take advanced music classes like orchestra and music theory instead of traditional electives.
But when it came time to choose a major at Bucknell, Chrampanis was drawn to a different area of study: psychology.
The oldest of six children, Chrampanis grew up in a bustling household with a unique set of family dynamics. She had a front-row view of how sibling relationships impact family life, child development and well-being — topics she was eager to explore as a psychology major.
With her academic focus set, Chrampanis realized she could still make room for music at Bucknell. She opted to live in the Arts Residential College, which immersed her in a community of artists and musicians — and influenced her to take more music classes. By her sophomore year, Chrampanis was close to completing a minor in music. Encouraged by Professor Barry Long, music, she decided to declare the discipline as a second major.
In summer 2022, Chrampanis participated in an independent research project that enabled her to combine her areas of study. Working with Professor Nicholas Roseth, music, Chrampanis examined how music can influence psychological well-being. She became so enthralled in the topic that it evolved into an honors thesis.
"I'm especially interested in how music can be an avenue for kids to develop elements of positive psychology early in their lives," says Chrampanis, who has learned that allowing children to make their own decisions, like which instrument to play, evokes the greatest emotion. "Agency is super important because if they have a choice, they will be more interested."
During that same semester, Chrampanis jumped at the opportunity to apply all she was learning in a different type of classroom when accepted a position as an assistant teacher for preschool-aged children at the River Valley Nature School in Lewisburg. It wasn't the typical student teaching gig. Here, she led children in outdoor explorations and taught them hands-on music lessons, using "instruments" found in nature, like small rocks to rattle around in cup-like maracas.
Elle Chrampanis '24 is studying music's impact on children's developmental psychology.
She had heard about nature schools in a developmental psychology course and was fascinated by the concept. In her role at River Valley Nature she could observe the difference in behavior between children sitting in a formal classroom versus being outside all day. "They are in an environment that doesn’t restrict them," she says. "It gives them a breath of fresh air — literally."
This summer, she'll work with kids again, but in the realm of nonprofits. As an intern for the music-centered organization Sing Me a Story, part of Chrampanis's work will include assisting children who are in the hospital or hospice with creative storytelling over a video call. Their story, or illustration, will be sent to a songwriter and turned into a song. "I'm looking forward to finding a way to work with music and children from a behind-the-scenes lens," Chrampanis says.
Although Chrampanis hasn't decided exactly what path she'll take after graduation — perhaps graduate school or working with child advocacy organizations — she knows she’ll incorporate music into whatever she does. "Music is an outlet that can have a positive impact on everyone's lives," she says. "I've always said I wanted to make a difference in this world."