For the most part, students’ majors reflect their greatest passions. But at Vassar, many students are greatly passionate about music, theatre, painting and a multitude of other pursuits completely out of their area of study. Both Miranda Alquist ’14, a political science major, and Alice Thornburgh ’14, a studio art major, exemplify how students can navigate musical studies without a formal concentration in it.
While neither Alquist nor Thornburgh are music majors, the two will be performing a repertoire they have worked towards over their four years of vocal study at Vassar. Alquist and Thornburgh will both sing seven solo pieces as well as five duets. The program includes works by Handel, Rameau, Carissimi, Strauss, Schubert, Brahms, Mozart, Purcell, Britten, Debussy and Fauvré.
Thornburgh described the general array of pieces, saying, “I have a lot of sad love songs, which are very German Romantic period, and I have some very silly and frivolous pieces that are just like, ‘spring time!’”
Thornburgh views music as something that does not have to be so serious and can be shared with her close friends. “Most of my friends are in the singing community at Vassar, and we’re all looking forward to going to each others’ recitals. It’s going to be great to see how hard my friends have worked and to show off how hard I’ve worked,” she said.
While Thornburgh derives purpose from sharing her music with others, she primarily busies herself in non-musical endeavors. She said, “I’m a Studio Art major so I’m working on my senior thesis right now. I’m working on creating a series of paintings, which will be shown in the show at the end of the year. It’s a big, encompassing project, focusing [on] one idea. I’m exploring the depiction of environments in traditional painting medium and also in digital media.”
For Thornburgh, her passion for music remains just as important as her love of studio art. She said, “I certainly am not intending to be a singer when I leave school. I want to be an artist, but I never ever want to let go of singing. I think I was hesitant about this when I first arrived at Vassar. Now I know I can’t not do this—that’s one of the things that shows how dedicated you’re to something—if you can’t imagine it not being a part of your life.”
Thornburgh finds music permeates through throughout seemingly disjunct sects of the Vassar community. She noted, “While people sometimes perceive the music and arts to be very aside from other stuff, a lot of Vassar’s identity comes from its artistic students.”
Thornburgh has grown more confident as a singer since getting to Vassar and is looking forward to performing in the recital with Alquist. The two singers share many qualities. They both are sopranos pursuing non-musical majors and both feel that singing will always play an important role in their lives.
Similarities aside, the girls approach music differently from each other, and both of their experiences pursuing music at Vassar impart distinctive advice.
For Alquist, the recital provides a final opportunity to showcase her talent. Her impetus for organizing and performing in the recital goes back to her first year at Vassar. “I remember freshman year going to see the senior recitals of a few friends from Matthew’s Minstrels. Since then, I’ve wanted have this experience—to have a chance to show everyone that I know what I’ve been doing in voice lessons all these years,” she said.
Alquist’s voice teacher, Rachel Rosales, recognizes Alquist’s capacities as a singer. In an emailed statement, Rosales said, “Alquist is a joy to work with! Her growth, vocally and as a musician, is outstanding! I will certainly miss her as a student after graduation!”
Music, for Alquist, is both a meditative and helpful practice, which helps her handle her non-musical obligations. She said, “I sometimes walk to rehearsal thinking about all these things I have to be doing, but it is true that once I leave rehearsal, I am definitely less stressed. It is nice to have that built-in break from thinking about other things and to have this time designated to do something I really enjoy doing.”
Alquist’s participation in musical activity has been widespread throughout her years at Vassar. “I’ve been doing voice lessons since freshman year, except for the semester I was abroad in India. I didn’t sing at all when I was there, but I’m also in the women’s chorus, madrigal singers and an a cappella group [Matthew’s Minstrels]. All my extracurriculars are singing,” she said.
Fellow madrigal singer Ariana Sharma ’16 highlighted how Alquist has inspired her to continue studying music outside of a formal concentration. She said in an emailed statement, “Not only does Alquist have a beautiful voice, she is also just a sweet, caring person. She made me feel welcome when I joined Women’s Choir and Madrigals, and she showed me that it’s possible to have music in my life even if I don’t want to be a music major. I’m really looking forward to attending Alquist and Thornburgh’s Senior Recital!”
The artistic community definitely has a lot to offer for Vassar students. Though it may be common sense, it is worth reinforcing that you do not have to be considering a career in the arts to get involved in music, theatre, painting, or any other artistic pursuit. They both encourage Vassar students to eagerly explore activities, music in their case, which may grow to complement primary interests; these might also sustain sanity and strengthen self-confidence.
Alquist and Thornburgh will perform on March 1 at 1:30 p.m. in Skinner’s Recital Hall.