Hi friends! As a recent graduate of Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, it seems only fitting that my first blog post should feature one of most excellent people I’ve met through the school. Bienen is small but mighty and pairs some of the world’s best conservatory training with Northwestern’s high-level academics. So, it should be no surprise that people like Meg Orita come out of this school. I’ve known Meg since our first day at Northwestern- we were in the same Peer Advisor group during Wildcat Welcome, our orientation program- and I’ve been lucky enough to watch her find and go after her passions these past four years.
Meg and I both graduated from Northwestern with degrees in Voice and Opera Performance, but we have found very different paths within that major based on our interests and passions. Meg, with the help of some amazing faculty fairy godparents, the flexibility of the quarter system, and her own creativity, was able to discover a way to combine and pursue her diverse passions in a way she had never imagined before coming to school. The discovery started, I think, during our sophomore year when acclaimed conductor and local celebrity Dr. Donald Nally took over as the head of our choral department. Meg, a self-proclaimed choir nerd, was immediately placed into BCE: the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble (yes, I know there are too many words in the title for that acronym). This ensemble is small, advanced, and, with Dr. Nally at the helm, has recently focused more on the “contemporary” than the “early” of its title. Already socially conscious and perpetually curious, Meg had already taken a handful of gender studies courses as electives (thanks, quarter system, for making that possible!) when she encountered the socially and politically charged music of BCE. Soon after, in the midst of taking extra musicology classes to pursue a minor, she sought out Dr. Ryan Dohoney, an all-star musicologist professor here, to chat about the potential of her converging interests developing into a larger project. To recap: Meg loves singing, musicology, gender studies, contemporary music, and studying in the Unicorn Café more than she sleeps. So, she took a leap and applied for an Undergraduate Research Grant.
Meg, of course, is awarded said grant and throws herself at it with a tenacity like you’ve never seen- she’s interviewing all sorts of up-and-coming composers and ensemble musicians to try and determine the “intersections of gender and music from the mid-twentieth century through the present day.” Her eight weeks are up, and yet, she’s still going strong with the project. Fast forward to the end of our senior year, and she’s still working on the project and graduating at the top of our class. On top of it, she’s kept her love of performing alive and managed to showcase both her intellectual and artistic involvement with music in the programming and execution of her absolutely stunning senior recital. But that’s not even the best part.
Meg likes to call her next move “precocious;” she throws caution to the wind, ignores what might be the “standard” path for a graduating BM student in voice, and, skipping that whole “Terminal Masters Degree” part altogether, applies for MA/PhD programs in musicology. Bold choice, no? Several of these programs say they won’t even consider candidates without masters degrees. But, lo and behold, Meg gets into several top-notch programs and has her pick. Meg Orita, who wears shirts with little animals on them and has a running Instagram series called “the awkward album” and who taught me where to buy the best soy-based candles, is going to begin coursework for her PhD in musicology to take her research even farther and take the music world by storm. But, lucky for me, she’ll be back in the area in October to act as a speaker on a panel dealing with gender and music, including her work with her ongoing research project.