Xia Headley ‘21 can’t imagine a life without music. It all started in her mother’s house, where Headley listened to the music her mother played and sang around the house. That’s why, Headley explains, “my music taste started with things that I was definitely too young to know.” Although she had been singing her whole life, Headley didn’t start studying music until she came to Swarthmore, where she majors in Psychology with minors in Music and English. “Taking music theory was not something I had ever done before, so beginning to look at it from an academic perspective was really interesting. Getting to take something I love, and understanding it besides, ‘Oh, that sounds pretty.’” Headley started singing in the Swarthmore choral ensemble her freshman year, which has been her favorite musical experience at Swarthmore because “the experience of all those voices harmonizing is incredible.”
As a psychology major, Headley sees a great connection between music and psychology. “Learning music can be healing,” she says. “Just the idea of being able to create something… and how that can easily affect my psychological state, and obviously other people’s psychological state [is powerful].” One type of music Headley identifies as particularly calming to her is Christmas music, which her mom plays “as soon as Halloween is over.” She laughs, “it does not end until my birthday in February.”
Headley draws from a wide variety of musical sources. From the classical music she sings in chorus and voice lessons, to the Broadway musicals she nerds out over, to the catalog of R&B singers she listens to - Janelle Monáe, Kehlani, Alicia Keys, and H.E.R. especially - Headley is a collage of musical influences. After Swarthmore, Xia plans to take a year or two off and do research, and then apply to grad school for psychology. Xia says, “Whether or not music becomes part of my professional life is to be determined, but it will always be a part of my personal life.” This spring, she will be performing with fellow senior Gene Witkowski in a joint Senior Recital.
Favorite music course at Swarthmore? Black Popular Music: From ‘Race Music’ to the Mainstream - it is one of the first music classes I have ever taken that focuses on music I actually listen to.
What will you miss most about Swarthmore? The community that I’ve built here with my fellow students, as well as the staff and faculty.
Best performance(s) you ever saw? I love watching my friends perform because I get to see how much their work has paid off. In a more general sense, I love Broadway so performances that really stood out were when I saw Waitress and Hadestown.
Favorite song(s)? I cannot choose a favorite song because my musical taste changes constantly, but I do love that moment where I rediscover a song that used to bring me joy.