There is Always Room for Music and Friends

Posted by Priya Mathew

They asked me to sing. I raised my eyebrows, not sure if they were serious, but they were. I hummed the pitch in my head and used the next sixty seconds to share my joy of music with my McDermott interviewers. (Definitely was not expecting to be asked to sing at my interview! Luckily, I had been working on a piece in voice lessons – Handel’s “Lascia Ch’io Pianga.” Shout out to my voice lesson teacher – Thanks Mr. Ranne!)

Choir and music were a big part of my high school days. My world revolved around rehearsals and sectionals and choir concerts and choir friends. I thought coming to UTD and going the pre-medical route would not allow me to keep singing, but I was wrong. During my time at UTD, I got to meet some extraordinary musicians and sing all styles of music from choral to pop to jazz.

During my first year, I joined a student a cappella ensemble called Novis. In Novis I met other students like me, who had been involved with their high school choirs. We sang at convocation, at UTD’s Community Christmas concert, and at various on-campus events. Wednesday night rehearsals were my stress relief from Organic Chemistry and Neuroanatomy. I was always so impressed by the creativity and dedication of my peers in Novis, and I made some really good friends that I would not have met otherwise.

Mary Did You Know:

Hey, Soul Sister:

In my second year, I realized that I missed the choral style that I had fallen in love with in high school, so I joined the Community Chorale at UTD. This was one of my favorite experiences because I not only got to sing with other UTD students, but also teachers, doctors, and retired folk from the community – I sang next to a woman who was a tiger tamer! Derrick Brookins, our director, brought so much energy to every rehearsal. He saw music as a way to share a story and made every piece we sang a meaningful experience.


During my third year, I got to sing with UTD’s jazz ensemble. In the past, I had sung jazz with vocal ensembles, so I was intimidated to be the singer of a jazz band. I was so impressed with all the instrumentalists – some of them had been playing for several years and could improv like no one’s business. We performed a lot of the jazz standards to work on style. I was grateful for the opportunity to work on my scat and make music with this talented group of students, who also had a passion for jazz. One of my favorite memories was singing jazzy Christmas carols at our concert:


Now, as a senior, I’m going back to the style that first stole my heart – choral music. And I get to do it with my McDermott friends. This year, UTD offered a one-hour credit course called University Choir. I had no idea about the course until Tyler Criss ’13 asked me about it. I decided to enroll and asked a couple of the other ’13 scholars to join… and they did! So far, it’s been a lot of fun. We have varied ranges of experience, but we learn something new at each rehearsal. Our director, Dr. Jonathan Palant, is energetic, fun, and passionate about using music to bring people together. Here is a glimpse of one of our rehearsals:

I think college is a great place to try something new – you don’t have to be the same person you were in high school. But hold on to the things that make you YOU. I wasn’t ready to let go of music when I came to UTD. And I didn’t have to. UTD is still in the early stages of developing a strong music program, but for me, that was okay because music was not a career goal but a passion, and I am grateful that I have gotten to make music with people of all ages and backgrounds. I’ll always remember the time I got to sing “We Are the World” on campus in memory of the Paris terrorist attacks, the many strange (but useful) warm ups and the satisfaction of a good rehearsal, the deep sorrow I felt when singing a song written in the perspective of a dying woman with Alzheimer’s (while also studying Alzheimer’s in my neuroscience courses), the time I got to study and scat to several of Duke Ellington’s standards, and the joy I feel in getting to sing with some of my closest friends. I cherish the memories, laughs, friends, and the music. So thanks, UTD, for giving me a place to make music these past four years.

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