Compose your music experience

At Beloit College, students don’t have to decide between music and other interests, thanks to a flexible curriculum and supportive environment. (Music scholarships help, too.)

Students explore music in and out of the classroom. Bits & Pieces, Beloit's a cappella group, rehearses in the Hendrick... Students explore music in and out of the classroom. Bits & Pieces, Beloit's a cappella group, rehearses in the Hendricks Center for the Arts.

Music has long been an important part of student life at Beloit College. As evidence, consider the Folk ‘n’ Blues Festival, organized annually by students for over 50 years, and the iconic C-Haus, founded in the early 1970s and host to an active lineup of live music.

Today, opportunities to experiment with music are also nurtured at the college’s Maple Tree Recording Studio and TV & Media Lab, while the music department offers a rich array of courses, including lessons and ensembles, for both majors and non-majors.

No wonder the music department’s tagline is “Connect music to your life.”

To that end, the department not only offers scholarships but takes an expansive approach to awarding them. “Majoring or minoring in music is not required,” says music department chair Daniel Barolsky. Instead, students can meet the scholarship requirement by taking lessons or participating in an ensemble. The goal: invite contribution to music on campus.

Further, scholarship recipients are not required to continue with the instrument or vocal style used to audition. Explains Barolsky, “Students’ musical interests evolve. Our scholarship program supports that.”

Department faculty actively seek to accommodate students’ interests. For example, while none specialize in rap, interested students can work with voice faculty to improve their technique, while faculty in the English department can help them strengthen their writing.

The approach benefits a wide range of student interests and backgrounds, as illustrated by two current students.

Raised in Rock Hill, SC, Kyle Springs-McCottry’25 played football throughout high school. He also played trombone in the marching band during varsity games as a first-year and sophomore, then in the band in the spring off season as a junior and senior.

When it came to college, football and trombone remained priorities. Affordability also mattered.

Today, as a defensive lineman at Beloit, Kyle’s taking on leadership roles within the football team. “Beloit is welcoming,” Kyle says. Not only did members of the football team greet him when he visited campus before enrolling, but coaches reassured him he’d be able to play as a first-year student. “That meant a lot to me,” Kyle says.

A music scholarship was also reassuring. It would not only help make attending Beloit affordable, but signaled that Beloit was serious about making music possible for all interested students. In fact, to accommodate Kyle’s athletics, his trombone teacher, John Biester, has scheduled their lessons on Sunday evenings. With Biester’s encouragement, Kyle has also joined the wind ensemble. Community members who play in the ensemble are now part of his network of contacts.

Other faculty have also embraced him. Says Kyle, “Professors in the history department have really encouraged me. I may major in history.” Journalism is also a possibility. “Shawn Gillen tells me I have a voice for it. It’s been great to get that kind of feedback.”

Sam Gomoll’24, from Sun Prairie, Wis., took a different path to Beloit. Unlike Kyle, his musical interests were not supported by his high school. A friend of his father’s pointed him to Beloit, where his interests would be. “Check out Beloit,” he was advised. “The music scene there is crazy.”

Junior Sam Gomoll was drawn to Beloit by the ability to live in campus housing with other musicians, as well as take classes in music his... Junior Sam Gomoll was drawn to Beloit by the ability to live in campus housing with other musicians, as well as take classes in music history, recording, and theory.

Sam applied and when he visited, “Beloit clicked.” He says. “The atmosphere, people, buildings.” Music House, a campus residence, was also a big draw; he’d be able to live with other musicians. Other plusses: Maple Tree Studio and a course in sound recording. Both suited Sam’s interests in writing and making music.

Since enrolling, Sam’s experience at Beloit has been even better than he anticipated.

“Beloit has been incredibly supportive. After studying with Ian Nie at Maple Tree, during the pandemic lockdown, I set up a studio in my dorm room and recorded a record. Yvonne Wu helped me think outside the box in terms of hearing music, and Daniel Barolsky taught me to think differently about music, including the role of race.”

Another benefit: “Faculty won’t let you fail,” says Sam.

Sam’s career plans: “Write as much music with as many people as possible. Have a steady job that permits music on the side.”

Adds Brian Morello, director of Beloit’s Center for Entrepreneurship, where the Maple Tree Studio is housed: “Music is not only alive at Beloit College and in the surrounding community, but we’ve got the infrastructure and know-how to help you make music a part of your life both while you are in college and afterward.”

By: Elizabeth Brewer
April 24, 2023

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