Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
With a vibrant community, professors who inspire, and the hands-on experience you need to dive into your field with confidence.
Brian Diller had questions and knew where to get answers.
“How can I conduct better? How can I listen better? What am I not even hearing yet? What is the next level for me? It’s those kinds of deeper questions that I went back to school for,” he says. “Ithaca was the place to ask those higher-level questions.”
Brian conducted a high school band for three years after he received his undergraduate degree. During that time he developed as a teacher, learned how to delve into problems, and gained insights into conducting and music. But as those questions emerged, he knew it was time to pursue his graduate degree.
And for help finding the answers he was looking for, Brian had one person in mind: Ithaca College professor Steve Peterson. Brian was aware of Steve’s reputation as a conductor and teacher already. His first chance to meet and work with the renowned instructor came during a weeklong summer workshop that Steve hosts at Ithaca College every year. “It really opened my eyes to a lot of new things about music, teaching, conducting, and everything I wanted to be as a musician,” Brian says.
Brian applied for and was accepted into the graduate program two years later, its small size allowed for plenty of class, practice, and consultation time with professors, as well as continuous opportunities to conduct pieces with the various groups in the School of Music. Brian considers the time spent with the ensembles incredibly meaningful, especially the capstone to the program—the master’s recital.
“Steve gave the wind ensemble to us graduate students for three weeks to do a whole program. We did all the rehearsing, all the planning.” In addition, one of IC’s cello professors performed a solo during the program. “It was a great opportunity to collaborate with the faculty and have a soloist with the group,” Brian says.
Shortly after earning his master’s, Brian was named to a one-year position as an associate lecturer of music at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He’s exploring doctoral programs in music as well. And though he’d love to continue teaching at a college level, he says he’d be perfectly happy to return to the high school level—now that he has those deep questions answered and is equipped with the skillset to answer new ones on his own.
“Professors at Ithaca College weren’t teaching us [graduate students] so much as they were guiding us in our own research and giving us the tools to search for our own answers. And it was done in a really meaningful and effective way by the entire faculty,” Brian says.
Before Mike Severo came to Ithaca College, his life was focused mainly on music. As a talented boy soprano, he had performed with stars like Bruce Springsteen and Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall. When his voice changed, so did his musical direction. He transitioned to piano and percussion and continued to grow his skills.
But when it came time to choose a major, Mike made the big decision to move away from a career in music. At a college with a nationally known music school, he knew he'd have exciting musical opportunities, so he wanted to focus on another area for his profession--he just wasn't sure what it would be.
"One of my friends had told me about the flexibility of the Exploratory Program," Mike explains. "There's an emphasis on growing organically with the school and developing where you think you can derive the most value."
The program gives students up to four semesters to take courses in various areas of study to find the best fit for their career. As a freshman, Mike took a seminar about math and music, and through his passion for music he discovered a strength in math that led him in a whole new direction. His faculty adviser helped him decide what courses to take from there. "The best thing about advisers is that if you have goals, they can help you plan so that you can achieve those goals."
Mike focused his path on finance and accounting, and secured an internship at FBR, a leading investment bank. During his senior year, he led a team of his peers to victory in the Adirondack Cup competition by achieving the greatest return on a hypothetical million-dollar investment portfolio. Ithaca College bested undergraduate and graduate students from 17 other colleges and universities in New England and New York, including Hofstra University, SUNY Plattsburgh, Clarkson University, and SUNY Stony Brook. (You can read more about Mike leading his team to success in the Ithacan.)
Mike is excited about his future in finance as he approaches graduation, and he will continue to enjoy a musical life outside of work. He is confident that the Exploratory Program helped him make the right choices. "Sometimes life pushes you in a direction, and you end up in a place you never thought you'd be--but you find yourself loving it."
More on this story: The Center for Trading and Analysis of Financial Instruments
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