Beautiful and terrifying, awe moves us outside ourselves

One elusive emotion reveals that individuals aren’t the center of the universe. Then, it makes us feel calmer, more connected and happier
hiker silhouetted against the starry night sky


College of Education and Human Ecology “Awe”-some playlist

Open Spotify playlist of songs from the episode

When the Inspire Podcast interviewed faculty and staff about their experiences with awe — the emotion we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that we don't understand — they shared the songs that take them to a sublime place. Here are their favorites, and those of several more faculty and staff in the college. Listen, and be moved.

Hallelujah! Chorus by Quincy Jones


Dean Don Pope-Davis: “One of the things that brings me to tears every year is Handel's Messiah … The one that really gets me is the R&B version.”

32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco

Sarah Lang, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science: “She says, ‘I am 32 flavors, and then some.’ I am a lot of things. And kind of owning that. Like, that's beautiful and great. And I don't need to answer to anyone about the fact that I'm all these things.”

Surprise Yourself by Jack Garrett

Alisa Tate, director of student services and graduate studies in Department of Educational Studies: “It's such a beautiful song. He talks about how you may surprise yourself with how amazing you are and the things you're capable of, things that you never thought you would be able to accomplish.”

This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush

Erik Porfeli, chair of the Department of Human Sciences: “It certainly triggers, at least in me it triggered for the first what 20 times I listened to it, a strong emotional response.”

Down with the Sickness by Disturbed

Sara Owens, program specialist in CETE: “When I went crowd surfing it was a lot of fun. It was exhilarating. You're nervous, but you're excited. You can't control you what your body's doing.”

Somewhere Only We Know by Keane

Deidre Woodward, marketing and communications analyst

Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Deidre Woodward, marketing and communications analyst: "This song provokes awe for many reasons...knowing it’s about losing his child and the way he articulates his acceptance of the loss. Being in similar shoes, hearing it makes me feel connected to others who find ways to live again and create beauty from pain and touch others. The guitar is the perfect translation of the ups and downs of deep sorrow and longing and his reassuring lyrics remind me that I will find my way."

WE ARE by Jon Batiste

Robin Chenoweth, editorial designer: “This song speaks to our connectedness. Jon Batiste’s grandmother seems to speak across time and space.”

Appalachia Spring by Aaron Copland

Carol Delgrosso, media production specialist: “My awesome song experience was listening to the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra play this song in China.”

Liz on Top of the World by Jean Yves-Thibaudet

Meghan Beery, Inspire Podcast intern: “I always get goosebumps when I hear this song from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. The whole scene it accompanies is beautiful as well.

Heaven by Anthony David and Algebra Blessett

Donna Ford, EHE Distinguished Professor: “This song makes me hopeful that negative things will get better. It helps me better understand elders in my family and community who are so faithful and so resilient.”

Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Rebekah Salyers, faculty affairs specialist: “These (3) songs all center me to pause and reflect on the world and the bigger picture that surpasses me and my limited view of the world.”

Your Love is a Song by Switchfoot

Rebekah Salyers, faculty affairs specialist

Hello World by Lady Antebellum

Rebekah Salyers, faculty affairs specialist

Defying Gravity, from Wicked, by Idina Menzel

Ashley Keener, lead teacher, A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning: “Whenever I hear it, the lyrics make me feel empowered, like I can achieve anything. The way that the music builds into the final note at the end never fails to give me goosebumps. It's a song that I play whenever I need a confidence boost and reminds me that I can do difficult things.”

The Lion King, Elton John version

Ryan Provost, interim director of Student Services and Graduate Studies

Into the Mystic by Van Morrison

Robin Chenoweth, editorial designer: “By the time Van hits, ‘I don’t have to fear it…. Then magnificently we will float into the mystic…’ I’ve transcended to another plane.”

Paradise by Coldplay

Deidre Woodward, marketing and communications analyst

Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel

Deidre Woodward, marketing and communications analyst

Higher Love by Steve Winwood

Deidre Woodward, marketing and communications analyst

My Own Two Hands by Jack Johnson

Deidre Woodward, marketing and communications analyst

Golden by Jill Scott

Alisa Tate, director of student services and graduate studies in Department of Educational Studies: “One of my favorite songs of all time. I always say if I had a theme song to my life, it would be this song.”

Elton’s Funeral for a Friend, Elton John

Maureen Moore, teacher, Schoenbaum Family Center

Hallelujah by K.D. Lang

Maureen Moore, teacher, Schoenbaum Family Center, “Listening to (this) music makes me feel connected to humanity — and to something much greater than myself.”

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, First Movement by Israel Philharmonic

Janet Ciccone, associate director of strategic marketing: “The melodies of the first movement, have a sweeping, grand feel that calms the nerves and yet inspires. The trilling melody led by flute, oboe and clarinet reminds me of bird song. I've read that this movement represent ‘the happy feelings of arrival in the country.’ I think ‘the country’ represents a respite from the cares of everyday life. The piece gives me such respite.”

Magnificat by J.S. Bach

Maureen Moore, teacher, Schoenbaum Family Center, “It is hard to describe the … sense of joy, majesty and beauty expressed in the music.  An otherworldly feeling comes over me; while at the same time, paradoxically, I feel more connected to the earthly human experience.

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