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Best of Luck to Merit’s Class of 2021

Posted by Merit School of Music • August 26, 2021

Merit’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory Class of 2021 is heading off to college! Some graduates will be pursuing careers in music performance or music education, while others are exploring the fields of engineering, public health, African American studies, and just about every other area of study you can think of. No matter their chosen path, we can’t wait to see the incredible things these grads go on to achieve. Get to know our talented graduates by the numbers and through their own words.

merit 2021 graduates infographic

Merit Grads Reflect on the Impact of Music

“Music has definitely changed me for the better. It has taught me so much about the world and I couldn’t be more grateful. I loved the community feel of Merit and how you could tell the teachers cared about your education.”

– Stephanie Haynes | DePauw University, Music Education

“Music has allowed me to make tons of friends, many of which I am very close with. It is an outlet for my creativity and curiosity, and allows me to dedicate myself to something completely on my own.”

– Nathaniel Albert | Amherst College, Biology

“My favorite part about attending Merit is the community. I’ve made some of my closest friends through my time at Merit, like the girl that was my first stand partner and the boy who stood next to me at my first group class. Merit has always felt so welcoming and nurturing. I’ve also loved all of my teachers. I like that they are not just my teachers, but my mentors, and that I learn as much about music from our lessons as I do about life through their stories.”

– Nal Xaviera | Princeton University, Civil Engineering

“Music has given me a passion and knowledge I treasure. Merit has given me a sense of fulfillment and direction in life.”

Rosalie Trubeck | Illinois State University, Creative Technology

“Music is my person. Most friends were met through it, all aspirations are fueled by music. It’s something I had a very easy time dedicating myself to.”

– Jacob Frischer | NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Vocal Performance

“Studying music has changed me as a person. I learned to be more independent with my assignments and tasks, and my communication skills developed over time. I learned the importance of taking on new opportunities, like performances and auditions.”

– Meliza Castrejon | Roosevelt University

The Class of 2021’s Advice for Young Musicians

“Widen your range of recreational music. This gives you an idea of new songs to learn and even ideas for original music that you make.”

– Tristen Burt | Purdue University. Global Applied Sciences in Information Technology

“Don’t take it too seriously, kid. You might think you need to be the next Yo-Yo Ma prodigy type, but it’s just about having fun. Music is always just gonna be about having fun.”

– Annika Leistensnider | Trinity College Dublin, Linguistics & Middle Eastern Studies

“Take advantage of all the opportunities Merit gives you, including performances, scholarship competitions, masterclasses. Sign up for electives, they are so much fun!!! Practice first thing when you get home, while you still have energy, before doing your homework. Make sure you allocate time every day—even if not much—to practicing and create a practice journal to keep track of your goals for each practice session and what you achieved. Reach out to other Merit students (e.g. if you need an accompanist, if you want to form a chamber group, if you need help with theory homework, if you just want to make friends)! Research the history behind your pieces and take notes from class. Explore a wide range of music, different styles and from different areas of the world. Don’t be discouraged by failure. I have messed up a fair amount of auditions, concerts, performances, etc., but the important thing is to learn from mistakes and keep trying! Everyone has bad performance and practice days.”

– Bella Berman | Columbia University, Mathematics & Piano Performance

“Take risks. Art is risky, so go for it! Explore.”

– Chaz Barfield | Northwestern University, Voice/Opera & Psychology with a minor in French

“No practice, no progress.”

– George Siegle | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Music Performance & Economics

“It’s important for students to try different instruments. Throughout my journey at Merit, I really did not know what I wanted to focus on, so I did piano and then percussion, and finally found myself singing. You learn something different from the instruments you learn—like piano is an instrument everyone should know because it connects to every instrument in some way, while with percussion I learned rhythm, and with singing I felt like I found my passion for music again because I resonated with the songs that I was singing.”

– Gelse Tecalero | University of Southern California, Vocal Performance & Fine Arts

I’d say to not compare your growth to someone else’s. Everyone learns at different rates, so as long as you know you’ve been doing your best learning and moving forward—even if it feels slow, you’re doing amazing work and just keep that up!

– Elyssa Peters | Trinity Christian College, Music & Sociology

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