I think that when most people think about the University of Michigan, the first thing to probably pop into their head is Big 10 football and the giant stadium that dominates the corner of Main St. and Stadium Blvd. After that, there are a slew of impressive academic branches to the institution that surely spring to mind, too. Growing up in Ann Arbor, it seemed normal to me that the Alums of the University often referred to John F. Kennedy's quote in which he called Harvard "The Michigan of the East" - the town is justly proud of the institution that defines it. One of those branches of the school of which I am very proud to be an alumnus is the School of Music, where I received my Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance roughly a decade ago.
Today, I am in Ann Arbor to receive the Paul Boylan Award - an award that recognizes "outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions in the field of music, theatre or dance to a recent graduate (within 10 years of graduation) from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance." There are a lot of fantastic and highly accomplished fellow alumni to choose from when it comes time for the School of Music to decide to whom they wish to give this award, so I am deeply honored to be receiving it today.
Since my family moved to Ann Arbor when I was only 2 years old, and I remained there until I finished college 20 years later, to say that the University of Michigan School of Music had an indelible imprint on the foundation of my musical life is an understatement. I was running in and out of the School of Music building multiple times a week from the ages of 10 - 22 for everything from violin lessons, viola lessons, youth orchestra rehearsals, youth choir rehearsals, my first voice lessons, theory and music history classes, diction classes, opera rehearsals, and more. It was the hub of my musical education from the moment I decided I wanted to be a professional musician around the age of 11 until I embarked on the first steps of my professional career.
I often tell people that most of what I needed to know, I learned at U of M. I don't think that is an exaggeration - I quite literally grew up there. The musical foundation that I learned there has served me well through every up and down of this musical life, and while I have been lucky enough to have many additional mentors since, I am forever grateful for the incredible faculty at Michigan who took me under their collective wing, taught me the value of a curious mind, a disciplined practice, and inspired me to reach for the stars. Without them none of this would have happened, and I wouldn't be the musician and person that I am today.