The sound and the music

Soon Hee Newbold and Erin Rettig

Have you ever been standing in an elevator or sitting in an office when a particular song lilts through the air. Suddenly you are transported to another time and place? For me, it’s Gershwin’s Preludes or a Rachmaninoff concerto. Then there’s any Beatle tune. I’m there — back in school with my friends Myra and Beth, dreaming.

Music is a medium that fires us up or soothes us — and leaves us changed. During the Great Depression and throughout the 1930s, it was the voice of a little girl, Shirley Temple, that lifted spirits. More recently, it was the gritty soundtrack of Saving Private Ryan coupled with raw imagery that delivered a message about WWII we should never forget.

Music can make us soar, send us back in time and inspire us. Experts have their reasons as to why, but we all know it by experience. It alters our brains. It touches our senses. Music and sound change us.

Two special JMU alums — and recent additions to our Be the Change website —  use music everyday to enhance lives. Husband and wife, Erin Rettig (’96) and Soon Hee Newbold (’96) capture the impact of sound and spread it far and wide. Soon Hee is an award-winning composer who inspires student musicians all over the world. Erin, a sound-engineer working with some of Hollywood’s heavyweights, brings exciting dimension to films. They have followed their passions and changed lives along the way. One need only read the responses from Soon Hee’s young fans on her Facebook page to understand that connection. Here she generously engages with students whose lives her music has touched.

In a similar way, Erin is having an impact. Through film — a medium that unquestionably has influenced the past few generations in an mammoth way — Erin is fine tuning the experience through engineering the sound to enhance and bolster what one sees on the screen. Imagine Madascar, X-Men or Night at the Museum (a few of Erin’s many credits) without sound. It just wouldn’t be the same.

In a world where savagery, war, hate and conflict assault us all in surround sound, the music and sound that Soon Hee and Erin produce lifts us, makes us all better, and in the end, makes us more civilized.

You can read much more about the life and careers of Soon Hee and Erin in the upcoming issue of Madison magazine. Watch for it in your mailboxes in mid-August.

You can also read Soon Hee and Erin’s profile at:


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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