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Making Tracks: Cassie Shankman Helps Others Walk With Music

Monday, June 18, 2018

By Selena San Miguel, Content Strategist

Photo Credit: Alexandra Galewsky 

Texas Performing Arts alumna Cassie Shankman has always been a busy woman with many talents and interests.

As a young girl, Cassie loved the arts. She frequented the theater, was an active jazz band member, and loved going to the movies. Simultaneously, she enjoyed learning about science. Her early interest in different sound frequencies resulted in qualifying for the state science fair competition, earning her the attention of multiple universities.

Cassie Shankman prepares for a session.

Now, as a leading Biomedical Music™ composer, she combines both her passions of music and science to help others learn how to walk again with the Movement Tracks Project.

Together with an amazing team of music therapists, patients, musicians, and engineers, Cassie creates music that integrates with biomedical systems and devices that makes walking possible for patients. Many of these patients include people that have Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, children with cerebral palsy, and other neurologic conditions.

“As a musician, it’s amazing to know that every day I am helping people get better with my music,” said Cassie. “I feel incredibly lucky for this opportunity.”

With Executive Producer Hope Young’s vision, the Movement Tracks Project created pieces for patients with neurologic conditions that are helping people move better through much research and testing.

This ground-breaking project has also caught the attention of SXSW, where Cassie recently spoke on the topic and her team became an Official 2018 SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards Finalist. It’s an honor that she credits hard work as well as her education at The University of Texas at Austin.

“While at UT, I met a lot of people, learned professional skills, and was consistently inspired! I had access to visiting artists and shows that I still can’t believe, and I went to several performances a week,” she said.  “This allowed me to listen and learn, and connect with so much music.”

Cassie also attributes much of her success to her professors and mentors work outside the classroom. From her first composition mentor Ian Dicke, who opened her mind and ears to the writing process, to Cynthia Patterson at Texas Performing Arts who taught her the skills necessary for working in event and program management, Cassie feels lucky to have had so many great mentors.  

“My most-influential mentor was my professor Yevgeniy Sharlat. He also inspired me to get a Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP) certificate in film studies and study film, which led me to meet so many people that I still collaborate with today,” said Cassie.

She gained confidence speaking film lingo with film and music professionals through her internship in the BDP program with composer Hanan Townsend, which in turn led her to make connections with other industry professionals.

Cassie Shankman conducts an orchestra.

“The best part of my job, whether it be scoring music to the human body or to film, is continuously learning and collaborating with other professionals,” Cassie said. “I love creating a new industry and seeing results with the patients!”

When she isn’t working on The Movement Tracks Project, Austinites can find her DJ’ing at local events under the stage name DJ CASS&RA. She considers herself fortunate to be able to be a part of multiple projects and stresses new graduates to be flexible with their career journey.

“Don’t be afraid to go with what life throws at you,” she said. “I assumed I’d get a job doing film music but it’s been a wild trip to get to this career. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”