Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
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As Queen of the Night in the Ithaca College Theatre production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, Mengchun Yang delivered one of the world's most well-known arias to a packed audience. She stunned the crowd with her pitch-perfect performance, bringing the vengeful queen to life with her commanding stage presence.
For Mengchun, the journey to the IC stage was a long one—halfway around the world—but she knew that a graduate degree in performance at Ithaca College would be well worth the trip. She auditioned in her home country of China and wowed visiting faculty with her powerful soprano. Late that summer, Mengchun packed her bags and was on her way to Ithaca.
In IC's welcoming community, Mengchun quickly found a second family—music professors invited her over for home-cooked meals, music school peers helped her overcome the language barrier, and the women's chorus and choir provided a place for her to sing with new friends. She soon learned of an opportunity to broaden her range: "During my first semester, they had auditions for The Magic Flute. I just went to try. I never thought I would get a role or be a part of the opera, but I got it," Mengchun says.
She was cast as Queen of the Night, which has one of the most vocally demanding arias in opera. In nightly rehearsals with a supportive cast and crew, she developed her passion for opera. "I learned many things. I know how to prepare a whole opera: to learn the music and then read the dialogue and then the acting—and mix it together with the orchestra."
When opening night arrived, her music school family helped calm her nerves. "I was very excited and a little bit nervous. My friends and my teachers were all sitting in the audience to see me. That made me feel like family. I felt like, 'Okay. I can sing to my family.'"
Mengchun hopes to go on to sing opera professionally in China, where it’s becoming increasingly popular. With one outstanding performance already under her belt, she has a promising future as one of China's next stars.
"Being on stage, you are not yourself. You are that person. You have another personality. You need to build a person and have yourself and mix them together. I feel like I can see my value being on stage."
Allyce Barron had a problem when it came to deciding how to approach her future. “Since high school I had been torn between music and neuroscience. I actually applied to schools for both, so I could determine what I wanted to do.” Lucky for Allyce, she found she could do both at Ithaca College.
As a music education major, Allyce created a course in music cognition that allowed her to research how children learn in the classroom. “My independent study research was specifically about chunking and immersion learning. Do students learn a song better in pieces or when they are immersed into it all at once?”
With the help of a professor in the music theory department, Allyce experimented with teaching her 10-and 11-year old students songs using the chunking and immersion teaching strategies. She found that the students learned the song better if they were immersed in the entire piece repeatedly. “It was a surprising finding. All of the students felt initial frustration with the immersion, but figured out how to adapt to learn the piece.”
Allyce is now in grad school at Harvard, where she is studying the relationship the brain has with learning, especially in classroom settings. Looking back, she relishes the opportunity she had at Ithaca. “The rigor of the music education program is profound. It’s amazing that undergraduate students can take so much ownership in their learning. Thanks to Ithaca College, I feel ready to change the way students learn.”
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