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Bearing Fruit—Even Tomatoes: MHC's Strategic Plan Yields Success

Civilization Begins with a Rose—and a Plan

Botanic Garden as Metaphor

Leadership and the Liberal Arts: The Weissman Center for Leadership

Speaking Up for Speaking, Arguing, and Writing

January Term Internships: From Monkeys to Marketing

Maps, Memories, and More with the Click of a Mouse

Sharing Meals and More in the Kosher/Halal Dining Room

Putting Tomatoes on the (Genetic) Map

Mount Holyoke Enjoys Banner Years for Applications

High-Tech Room Lets Musicians Play in Virtually Any Venue

Tallying Up the Success of the Plan

Indika Senanayake '03: Transformation Through Performance

A Work of Art on Many Levels: Mount Holyoke, the Mountain

"Greening" Mount Holyoke's Curriculum

Geologist Elizabeth "Betty" Wilson '72 Brings Energy to J-Term

Hannah Kolak '03: Her Worlds Collided

Getting Concrete about Environmental Stewardship

Everything on Track with Langhan Dee '04

Athletics Scoreboard

On the Mount Holyoke Campaign Trail

Five College Center Brings People Together Through Language

Reaping the Rewards of The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2003

Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista


Plan goals: Encourage greater integration of the performing and expressive arts in the curriculum and College life • Support excellence and innovation in the sciences and strengthen linkages among those fields and with others in the curriculum

  Hannah Kolak '03 plays the cello in the new science center's Kendade Hall.
Hannah Kolak's experience at the College is testimony to the power of the liberal arts to broaden and inspire. She arrived four years ago an avid cellist intending to major in physics. She is graduating as a double major in music and physics who now plays two other instruments (organ and piano) and has studied voice. She has won prizes for excellence in not only physics and music, but also in Russian (she has just started learning German, as well); and plans to pursue a doctorate in musical composition at Boston University. "Hannah is perhaps the epitome of what studying music in a liberal arts context is all about," says Associate Professor of Music Larry Schipull. "She came with no intention of studying music but, after taking courses, she found that she enjoyed knowing about music in a way she hadn't before. Music is now a consuming passion for her."

Kolak says that she "felt her worlds colliding" during her first year at the College. It was then that she took her first music theory course and "loved it," and when she began a study of "the mathematical behavior of strings": in other words, why stringed instruments make sounds. While Kolak retained her interest in physics and excelled--Sean Sutton, professor and chair of physics, calls her "a remarkable physics major, one of the best I've seen in twenty years of teaching"--her first course in composition convinced her that her future was in music. Kolak says simply, "Mount Holyoke has allowed me to pursue anything I have wanted to explore."  

During her senior year, "exploring" has meant focusing on a multifaceted thesis. A recital at the College in March featured her compositions for voice, wind ensemble, and organ, and she conducted the wind ensemble. In addition to her work on the concert, Kolak wrote a paper in which she reflected on her own compositions and compared two compositions by contemporary composers. She first chose "The Covenant," by Ralph Shapey, a piece for soprano and sixteen players dedicated to the thirtieth anniversary of the state of Israel. Searching for a piece similar in style, she became captivated by the theatrical opera-cantata "Final Alice," one of Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Del Tredici's explorations of the fantasy world of Lewis Carroll. A soprano sings and narrates an established text accompanied by an orchestra in both pieces. "I liked the similarity in format of these compositions, among other things," says Kolak, whose scientific background is evident in her approach. "Finding the right pieces was like setting up an experiment with 'controls.' I needed certain things to be present to make comparisons."

While Shapey is considered an atonal modernist composer and Del Tredici is regarded as a tonal postmodernist, it is not surprising that Kolak feels the two have "more in common than you would think." Her paper, she says, "draws larger conclusions about divisions [in contemporary music], focusing on integration rather than boundaries." For Kolak, blurring boundaries--and being in harmony while doing it--is all part of a Mount Holyoke education that has struck a perfect chord.

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Copyright © 2003 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Don St. John and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on August 5, 2003.

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