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Public eye: Sarah Fulton, 37

New York street interviews: Stories from the sidewalk as told by real New Yorkers about their lives in the city that never sleeps.

Photograph: Jay Muhlin

44th Dr between 11th and 21st Sts, Long Island City, Queens

What are you up to? I’m on my way to a ceramics studio to fire some jewelry.

Sounds breakable. Are you a professional? I’m at the beginning of the process. I got laid off in October and decided it would be a great time to go for it. I’m a music therapist, professionally—I lived in Kenya for a couple of years and have been going back to do music-therapy research. I’m creating this business so I can self-fund my research over there.

Music therapy? I self-medicate every morning with iTunes. Of course you do! Mood is physiology: People take medicine to change their physiology, but music is one of the quickest ways to do that. I’ve been working on a theory and a method.

Is that why they play classical in Penn Station? [Laughs] Probably! They’ve done studies, right? In gas stations in the middle of the night, they found that crime went down in the places where they played classical music.

What’s your research? I’m looking at similarities between group music improvisation and meditation. I’m working in the women’s prison system in Kenya.

How have you been received as a white woman doing this work? It took time to develop trust. The Kenyan people are warm and kind, but that didn’t mean they trusted me.

And you’re a minority for once, huh? That was ca-razy. I had a stop over in Switzerland while on my way to Kenya and was like, Wow! Everyone looks like my sister and my brother! Then 12 hours later I was a minority. I was stared at constantly. I felt naked all the time. They’d touch my hair on the bus.

Did you stare back? Sometimes, just to have fun. I’d make faces. And I started understanding how celebrities feel. Sometimes I had to wear sunglasses. [Laughs]

More from Sarah

“Music is a natural organizing tool—it can even prevent breech births.”

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