Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer Visits Campus

By QIAN LI

Classical musician Caroline Shaw visited Middlebury College on April 10 and 11, offering engaging discussions as well as innovative performance. At age 30, she became the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013. Thanks to the Rothrock Family Fund for Experiential Learning in the Performing Arts, Annie Beliveau ’18 and Tevan Goldberg ’18 developed a thoughtful and detailed proposal, which was selected by a group of students listed as Performing Arts Series Society (PASS) Scholars and won the opportunity to bring Caroline Shaw to Middlebury. 

Ever since the program was launched in 2011, the Rothrock Family Fund has stimulated a greater interest and engagement among students over the years in contributing to the artistic life on campus. Students have not only proposed thoroughly-planned residencies for artists of interest, they have also voted during the selection part of the process. 

“It is a good system because the PASS scholars vote on who will come, so it is really meant to be student chosen, student organized,” Beliveau said. 

According to Allison Coyne Carroll, director for the Performing Arts Series, the annual proposal process is open to any Middlebury student each fall and offers an opportunity for students to learn more about arts administration, especially the work behind the scenes in presenting performances and residencies. 

Beliveau, a Music major with a French minor, first saw a poster about this opportunity and then came up with the idea of the residency of Caroline Shaw. Beliveau first learned about Caroline Shaw as the winner of Pulitzer Prize from a magazine cover at her doctor’s office and Goldberg recalled his excitement the first time listening to Caroline Shaw’s music when he was studying composition at an arts boarding school.  

“My friends sat me down in a chair and made me listen to it, I was like, this is the craziest thing I ever heard,” Goldberg said. “She was the the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize and her piece also reflected how innovative she was.”

While Carroll, along with Arts Events Manager Shannon Bohler and Series Intern Nadani Dixon ’20 played an advisory role to ensure the success in planning the residency, Carroll was especially impressed by the enthusiasm and passion in Beliveau and Goldberg’s proposal. 

“As most winning proposals have in common, Annie and Tevan clearly articulated their enthusiasm for Ms. Shaw’s work and the unique value of bringing her to campus,” Carroll said. “They planned well in advance, understood the proposal process and asked me and my experienced colleagues at the MCA lots of questions.” 

As students who are passionate for the classical vocal genre, both Beliveau and Goldberg wanted to get an insider take from Caroline Shaw about her personal career path in music. 

“If I was going to continue singing in this specific genre, Caroline Shaw would be the person that I would want to emulate the most,” Goldberg said. “As a 21st century classical musician, she is very forward-looking, very actively playing and composing and works in different genres.” 

In addition to planning Caroline Shaw’s visit to different classes, public concert and consulting with student composers on their works in progress, Beliveau and Goldberg also chose relevant topics for Caroline Shaw’s two discussions to engage more students: “blurring genre boundaries in music-making” and “the role of women in music.” 

“For the main discussion “From Pulitzer to Kanye,” we chose the Kanye label because that is going to be the one that perks people’s ears, especially for those who are not familiar with contemporary classical music,” Goldberg said. “It will show people that this is still a genre with lots of vitality and contemporary relevance and interest them in more of Shaw’s real concert works besides her collaboration with Kanye West.” 

Besides this public discussion on Tuesday, Caroline Shaw also offered an informal lunch discussion with Middlebury students about the historical role of women in classical music and their efforts in breaking through the musical glass ceiling in their contemporary work. 

Not only did Caroline Shaw’s two-day residency at Middlebury benefit the lives of many student artists, it also enriched the value of artistic engagement and enhanced the artistic life on campus.

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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer Visits Campus