On Sunday afternoon, six of the hardest working students at Hopkins performed for a limited audience of around 15 people. These students are earning a double degree with Peabody, studying music and theory, fitting in hours of practice alongside their already time-consuming efforts on the Homewood campus.
This is the third annual Double Degree Recital, a concert showcasing the double degree students' talent with many different musical selections ranging from Bach to Britten and also included a classical Indian dance piece. Due to the variation of every piece and instrument, the concert never dulled.
Lauren Latessa, a junior cellist, played a Baroque piece by J. S. Bach, while junior Ryan Hearty demonstrated his skill in classical guitar.
Lindsay Scattergood, a sophomore oboist, played a more modern oboe "metamorphosis" by Benjamin Britten; Rachael Kerr, a junior pianist, performed a piece by Liszt and then a Mendelssohn piano trio with Lauren Latessa and Pervinca Rista, a junior violinist.
Each student played beautifully, exemplifying tremendous control over their instruments and a wonderful sense of musical expression.
To wrap up the evening with another art form entirely, senior Anita Sivaraman, winner of the 2008 Sudler Arts Prize, performed a Bharata Natyam-style Indian dance piece.
Although the recital proved entertaining, the real focus of the afternoon was the performers and all the effort that goes on behind the scenes. These students juggle demanding courseloads at Hopkins with hours of musical instruction and practice, without much special acknowledgement.
The Peabody-Homewood Double Degree Program is intense, both to get into and to graduate from. In order to pursue a double degree, a student must apply separately to both Johns Hopkins and Peabody and write an extra essay to be considered for the program.
Getting into Hopkins is hard enough, but Peabody is a world-class conservatory and to be accepted, not only do you need to fill out a few pieces of paper, but you also need to audition before a panel. These students anxiously awaited three letters of acceptance: one for Hopkins, one for Peabody, and one for the double degree program. It is possible to get into both schools and not be accepted for the program.
Once accepted, the process has really just begun. Double degree students typically spend five years here and take anywhere from 25-35 credits per semester. Those credits are both in music and in classes at Hopkins. In addition, so much of their time is spent shuttling back and forth.
"It's definitely not easy," said Latessa who, aside from being a Peabody cellist is also an art history major. "I enjoy everything I'm doing and there's nothing I'd give up."
"It's fairly busy," said Rachael Kerr, a pianist and chemistry major. "There have been some stressful times!"
"I find that I'm using multiple parts of the brain every day," said Scattergood, an oboist and pianist who is also majoring in anthropology.
Hearty, an electrical engineer, explained that, while challenging, the program gives a student the ability to taste all different areas of study.
"It's a well-rounded program," he said. "[The application process] was tough. You felt like if you didn't get into one school, it was all over."
Sivaraman isn't a double degree student, but her dancing earned her the Sudler Arts Prize this year. To earn this award, she competed against seniors in each separate school of Johns Hopkins, including Peabody.
"I've been learning to dance since I was four," she said. "I perform in India every year. It allows me really to keep in touch with the culture."
Anita is a co-president and choreographer of Shakti, the on-campus classical Indian dance team and she will be going to medical school next year.
"I definitely want to keep dancing ... it's my passion."
Passion is the bottom line reason for all the effort. Dedicated to two demanding mistresses, art and academia. However, in many cases, the music helps these students stay committed to their academics. "The violin helps with my Romance Languages major," said Pervinca Rista, a junior violinist. "Both are very humanities oriented."
"[Chemistry and music are] a good break from each other," Kerr said. "When I'm tired of academics, I practice for a few hours and when I'm sick of music, it's nice to switch to something orderly that has an answer."
"I think it's important for a musician to study art," Latessa said. "My disciplines are interrelated."
Kerr has decided to study music in graduate school. "After four years of doing both things, I want to focus on just one," she said. "It's where my heart is."