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.
Five months after graduating from Ithaca, Tom Healy was working with the search and rescue team in California’s Yosemite National Park when he got a call that a woman had fallen and fractured her leg on Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s iconic peaks.
When Tom and his team partner reached the woman, they knew it wouldn’t be an ordinary rescue. “She needed to be medevaced off the top,” he recalls. “And a storm was coming in, and we were in a very bad place.”
An avid hiker and rock climber, Tom chose Ithaca because it offered a major—outdoor adventure leadership—that could prepare him for situations like this, blending theory with wilderness immersion so that he could put classroom learning into practice.
“You learn that the consequences of your decisions are very important,” he says. “It definitely gives you more tools in your bag for life.”
The storm hit so close that Tom’s partner felt electric shocks through the metal frame of his backpack, and another hiker’s hair stood on end. “What I learned in my classes at Ithaca is to remain calm,” Tom says. “You have to have the coolest head in the group.”
As the weather grew increasingly violent, Tom helped the woman safely aboard the rescue helicopter and then led the other hikers to safety as lightning struck around them. “If we hadn’t gone up there and gotten her off the mountain,” he says, “she definitely would have died.”
Tom got a letter from the National Park Service commending him on his bravery and a heartfelt thank-you from the woman whose life he saved. “The letter of thanks I received from the injured hiker was worth all the effort,” he says.
Now Tom is studying in an advanced paramedics program so that he can return to Yosemite as a full-time employee. “Ithaca College made me ready to adapt to any situation.”
>> More on this story: "Alum's Bravery Earns Notice" - Fuse
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