Blair School Confidential: Blair Students Combine the Resources of a Major Research University with Intense Music Study

Photo essay by Daniel Dubois and John Russell
Text by Bonnie Arant Ertelt, BS’81

Many people take music lessons as children, but most end up with only a few memorized songs and a greater appreciation for playing as a result. Those who go on to pursue music study at conservatories or schools like Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music are not unlike elite student athletes. Often starting at a very young age, they will have already spent countless hours practicing and studying, and they start their college careers with far more to come.

About 55 such students arrive each year at Blair. String and piano students may well have studied their instruments since they were 4 years old. Those who play wind instruments—including voice—will have had to wait until their lungs were developed enough to control breath, but they still arrive with as many as six years of experience.

Blair students know they’ll be majoring in music—often in addition to other disciplines—but frequently they choose Vanderbilt for the other social and academic opportunities the university offers that a traditional music conservatory cannot. This means Blair students are among the busiest on campus, continuing their intense focus on music while juggling the demands of other classes.

This spring Vanderbilt Magazine followed two first-year Blair students who happen to be twin sisters—Abbey Fitzgerald, who holds the Wilma Ward Scholarship, and sister Brigit, who is part of the Lanier Leadership Program—to see what a day in the life of a Blair student (or two) is really like.

Watch an audio slideshow about Abbey and Brigit:

See more photos: