Greetings, Summer @ Eastman Community!
My name is Raffi Wright, and I am a senior at the Eastman School of Music. I study Vocal Performance and Musical Arts. My focus for my Musical Arts project is telling the story (through my original songs) of my great-grandmother who survived the Armenian Genocide. My lecture recital presenting this research will be in the spring of 2022. I am also a candidate within the Institute for Music Leadership to receive the Arts Leadership Program Certificate. I have a concentration in English Literature within Eastman’s thriving humanities department, and I take secondary piano lessons when they fit into my schedule. I am blessed to work in several different offices and departments of the school – most recently, Summer @ Eastman!
I am thrilled to be interning with Summer @ Eastman for the fall semester as their Marketing Assistant. Relationships have guided many of my decisions in where I work and study, and this was my primary reason for applying for the Summer @ Eastman fall internship. I have already thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Sylvie Beaudette’s and Ms. Andrea Schuler’s enthusiasm and support. Working with them is such a joy.
I’ve been asked to share a bit about myself and my Eastman experience. I thought I would begin by sharing some expectations I had for Eastman. Before I arrived at Eastman, my expectations were very focused – I knew I would seriously study the voice and how it works, I would probably wrestle with theory and aural skills, maybe I would be able to study piano on the side, perhaps I could get involved in a student worker position somewhere on campus. I knew for sure that I wanted to preserve my voice for as long as possible and I found the perfect teacher to help me with that, so I was apprehensively excited.
I anticipated having a strong community of musical colleagues at the Eastman School of Music, but I now wholeheartedly consider many people in this community my family.
Never did I anticipate that I would add on an additional major that would allow me to focus on my Armenian heritage. I never expected to have so many faculty members deeply invested in my interests and my work. I never anticipated that I would be involved in several facets of the school with varying roles: Program Assistant for the Office of Advancement & Alumni Relations; Librarian Assistant within the Ruth T. Watanabe Special Collections under the supervision of the brilliant David Peter Coppen; Student Alumni Ambassador; Resident Advisor; the Eastman Centennial Planning Committee; Eastman Orientation Committee; special Eastman social media projects during the pandemic; and of course, initiatives like What is Opera, Anyway? and Representation Matters. By the grace of God, I believe that I have had the most enriching undergraduate experience I could have ever asked for at the Eastman School.
I do not want to sound contrived. I have certainly experienced many challenging moments at this school. After all, who would have predicted a pandemic that would carry through my sophomore, junior, and senior years? These challenging moments have been met with rewarding outcomes and many takeaway lessons that I will remember through my lifetime.
Eastman is an incredibly unique environment. Unlike some other schools, we all arrive here united in the same thing: our love for the arts. I am surrounded by some of the finest musicians in the world. My class was encouraged as first-years to network with our peers to make crucial professional connections, but more so for me, I have made deep, lasting friendships. I could not be more grateful for this.
Eastman demands excellence from all students attending here. As a first-year, I found the musical standard here to be quite daunting. As time passed, I realized that we were all on our own separate journeys, so there was no need to compare myself to others. I believe that with open minds and brave hearts, any student can reflect on Eastman after four years as a different person than when they started. I have learned so much more here than just analyzing and performing scores. This school has given me something to say.
If I were to share what Eastman has done for me, I would say a few things: the school has nurtured my mind that came in very hungry for academia, the school has nurtured my heart that longed for music, but most of all and best of all, the school has transformed and grown my artistic identity. This doesn’t just apply to my musicianship, but more richly, my humanity and perception of the world around me. I have been taught how to be prepared (not perfect, but prepared) and how to study intentionally and meaningfully at this world-renowned institution.
Often people talk about college as an investment: we give so many years of our lives to it (and, of course, financial resources). At Eastman, I believe that I have become the investment. The administration, faculty, staff, and my peers have invested so much love and care and advocacy into my endeavors. Although I am leaving Eastman in two semesters, I know that this school will stay in my heart wherever I go, and I look forward to coming back to visit often.
After devoting my life to the liberal arts these past years, I have learned that the beautiful mindset of any artist is “the best is yet to come.” We never stop learning, we never stop growing, and we never stop performing. This is the thrill and obsession of the “ever better” environment we have at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
I conclude with this anecdote: My first time walking into the Eastman School was during my senior year of high school for a trial lesson with one of the voice professors. I was absolutely terrified – palms sweating, voice shaking, it was a strain to make eye contact, and I convinced myself that there was no possible chance I had what it took to make it into this place. At the end of the trial lesson, the voice professor walked me to the door and in the calmest tone said, “You’ll find where you’re supposed to be, Raffi.”
I am so glad I took to heart the words of the voice professor that day and found where I was supposed to be. There is no place I would rather be at this time of my life. What a privilege it is to call this “ever better” place home – forever.