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Music @ Carleton

In which Greta mostly raves about how much she loves piano.

In which Greta mostly raves about how much she loves piano.

Anyone who knew me in high school will know that one vital aspect of my life has thus far been missing from this blog: music.

Notice that I said high school. Over my gap year, I had a bit of a hiatus from the musical pursuits that defined my high school career — lessons, orchestra, band, jazz band, pit ensembles, festivals, camps… the list goes on and on. But it’s hard to find a piano in the Amazon rainforest, and it’s ill-advised to lug a clarinet across Europe. Even when I was at home, I didn’t sequester myself in the practice room with quite the same fervor as I did before.

It’s not like I regret my time off. To all you over-committed high schoolers out there, let this be a lesson, in music or in whatever else you do. Everyone needs a break sometimes.

In fact, it has made me even more elated to come to Carleton and find my passion back in full swing. Well, maybe not swing, because I haven’t been doing jazz, but you get the picture. There’s something about coming back to a musical community (fun fact: although few students major, 2/5 of Carls take music lessons and/or perform in an ensemble!) that can’t be beat. Read on to learn about my musical pursuits…


This one is pretty self-explanatory; I’m taking piano lessons again! My teacher, Nikki Melville, is fantastic, and I’m working on a piece so full of emotion (the Brahms Rhapsody in g minor) that it practically compels me to the piano. Lessons at Carleton also include studio classes, where all of a teacher’s students get together to listen to each other play and provide feedback. It’s been great to meet other pianists on campus and hear my peers perform.


This term, I’m playing clarinet in Carleton’s symphony band. We’re playing exclusively British music for our first concert, including classics like Holst’s second suite and contemporary pieces like The Sun Will Rise Again by Philip Sparke. It’s fun and low-key and, if I do say so myself, the clarinets have a pretty great section this term. In the future I may also try other ensembles, like orchestra or Pied Pipers, Carleton’s student-run classical music group.

Music Performances

Coming to Northfield, I expected that to experience most concerts and other musical performances, I would have to make the trek to neighboring St. Olaf. But so far, I haven’t had to venture off Carleton campus for high-quality classical music events almost every week! And maybe it’s just a coincidence of small sample size, but all of them have featured the best instrument (piano). Here’s a sample of what I’ve seen and what’s in store…

  • Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of watching William Chapman Nyaho give a concert composed entirely of pieces by Black composers from Africa, the Caribbean, England, and the United States. The music ranged from dances to drum music to African-American spirituals, all excellent and excellently performed.
  • Last week, the math department (not a typo) brought classical pianist and mathematician Eugenia Cheng to give a talk/performance. By playing pieces from Bach to Debussy, she explained how math informs her interpretation of music to a room so packed that we had to move into the concert hall.
  • This Friday, I plan to attend a contemporary piano concert by Michael Mizrahi. I can’t yet tell you what he’ll play, but if the last two events are any indicator, it’s gonna be good!

So I’ll end with another little lesson for any prospies out there.

You do not have to go to an arts school if you love the arts. In fact, being at a place where I’m not solely focused on music has rekindled my love for music in a way that no conservatory could. I’ll be clear, music is not my main thing; if it was, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this. But Carleton has reminded me that music does not have to be my main thing for me to love it anyway.

All of this dispensing of advice has reminded me: if you’re curious about the arts at Carleton, or anything I’ve written about in my blog posts, or anything at all, email me! Seriously, I love answering questions and helping people and talking about myself, and learning that you actually want me to do these things would give me such an unneeded ego boost 🙂 so email me!

Greta is a proud Vermonter who must have fallen hard for Carleton if she’s choosing to spend the next four years without mountains to hike. Instead, you’ll probably find her wandering the Arb with a book and a journal and a pen behind her ear, playing piano in Weitz, or telling another unsuspecting soul about her gap year. And eating dark chocolate. She wants to learn everything, but is particularly interested in Sociology/Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and, of course, Creative Writing. Meet the other bloggers!