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."
The women’s pentathlon has five events. The shot put demands strength. The 800-meter run requires speed. The 100-meter hurdles and the long and high jumps call for agility. As a runner and jumper in high school, Emma Dewart ’12, M.S. ’13, had an offer to be a pentathlete and turned it down.
“I didn’t want to do it because I’d never thrown a shot put, I’d never hurdled, and I didn’t run an 800,” she said.
Weeks before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health education, Emma won her second consecutive NCAA national pentathlon championship with one of the highest point totals in the history of women’s Division III track and field. She was also named the 2012 Empire 8 woman of the year in recognition of her academic achievement, athletic excellence, and community service. Her rise to national acclaim began her freshman year at IC.
“When Coach [Jennifer] Potter first explained that I’d make a good pentathlete, I had lots of doubts,” Emma said. “But I knew she was very good at recognizing strengths, so I couldn’t say no.”
The next day, Emma began her hurdling career.
“I’ll never forget how awful I was. The difficulty wasn’t just learning new physical skills but developing the mentality to switch from event to event, to recover from a bad performance and move on.”
A full course load, which included a four-credit anatomy class, also challenged her. “Like track, juggling athletics and academics takes discipline.”
That discipline rewarded Emma while student-teaching health education.
“I’d never taught high schoolers. I didn’t feel prepared, but having competed in big meets, I knew how to handle my nerves. After the first week, students began telling me how classroom topics such as ‘disease and lifestyle’ related directly to their experiences. Gaining that new perspective, I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life connecting with students.”
Currently preparing for a teaching career, Emma is pursuing a master’s degree in health education at IC.
“Coming out of high school, I never expected I’d be so successful in track,” she said. “Responding to a coach’s challenge taught me to aim high in everything.”
>> More on this story: "Dewart Named 2012 Empire 8 Woman of the Year" - Bombers Athletics
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