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Whenever people hear that I graduated with a degree in Music from Dartmouth, there is usually a moment of surprise and bemusement. Music is not exactly the first thing they think about our college. Nevertheless, after obtaining my Masters at a music conversatory and working in the performing arts for nearly 20 years (wow!), I'm content with the decision 17 year old me made.
Dartmouth's Music Department gave me the opportunity to work with so many amazing mentors -- Bill Summers, Steven Swayne, Louis Burkot, Melinda O'Neal, Tim Newton, and my dear voice teacher Erma C. Mellinger. I sang, played, and learned about everything I could get my hands on: opera, classical, gospel, African drumming, Japanese pop music, musical theater, choral and new music.
Outside of the Music Department, I was able to learn from and participate in the kind of scholarship that makes a liberal arts education unique. (How can I forget studying with Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley during my sophomore summer! I wrote the libretto for a jazz opera!)
It wasn't always an easy time. Though the pre-Facebook atmosphere provided us with a bubble, the troubles of the world were never completely out of sight. I felt this most acutely as a black woman at an institution whose history with gender and race has had many bumps. But, my Dartmouth friends made the difficult parts manageable. I've so enjoyed seeing them achieve great things over the years -- in the arts and beyond.
So, how has my music degree oriented me in life? I left Dartmouth excited about working in the arts, overwhelmed by the possibilities, and committed to ensuring that the arts are accessible to as many people as possible. My work has been as varied as my time in Hanover: teaching young singers; providing capacity building resources to arts organizations all over the world; planning and implementing seasons for music ensembles; and, mentoring emerging arts professionals.
In my current role as Director of Music Education at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, I am blessed to develop performances and education programs for the Center's chamber music, hip-hop, and jazz seasons, as well as the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera (where I have the distinct pleasure to work closely with Timothy O'Leary '97). I also get to work with young high school and college students who want nothing more than to have a career in the arts. They make me feel old, but it's the best part of my job.
I do all the things -- just like I did at Dartmouth, and I'm grateful for the experiences I had all over the Hopkins Center.