Room for Everyone

May 27, 2016

Student musiciansMusic is one of the most popular departments on campus. That appeal is based on both the variety of topics and activities available and the department’s flexibility in supporting students of all experience levels and interests. Prospective majors such as William Decourt ’18 (St. Paul) find plenty of rich academic depth dedicated performers such as Ian Mercer ’16 (Shaker Heights, Ohio) can continue to improve through private lessons, and explorers such as Ann Guttridge ’18 (Columbus, Ohio) can develop existing interests while branching out to something new. All of them find teachers who are dedicated to helping them achieve their individual goals.

“I like that Carleton’s music department is open to anyone who’s willing to learn,” says Guttridge. As an accomplished choral singer, she has enjoyed learning to bend her voice to director Lawrence Burnett’s vision as she develops her own unique style under the guidance of Laura Caviani in the jazz ensemble. “I’ve really learned to trust myself and the capabilities of my voice,” she says. Meanwhile, she’s learning the guitar in private lessons and dipping her toes into the history behind the music she loves to sing via the American music concentration’s introductory course.

Music faculty members support students’ academic and creative endeavors in a way Mercer describes as having “a family sort of vibe.” An accomplished pianist and American music concentrator, Mercer talks to his professors about a wide variety of musical and personal topics, including his goal of becoming an orchestra administrator. “They’re always giving me connections to people they know or places I would be a good fit,” he says. Last spring the faculty even helped him stage a complicated performance of a John Luther Adams composition for two pianos and electronics as an independent project just because he was interested in the piece. Throughout his time in the department, he has continuously stretched his abilities as a musician and pianist under the tutelage of department chair Nicola Melville.

Decourt has likewise improved as a violinist—in private lessons with Mary Horozaniecki and performing in the orchestra under Hector Valdivia—and also challenged himself to do something new by taking a class on the cognitive science and physics behind listeners’ perception of music. “I’m very much a humanities person, so it was a bit hard to grasp,” he admits. “I used to think there was one good way to look at music, academically or as a composer. Carleton has changed that perception a lot. I look at it more holistically now.”