Theresa Zapata-Martin remembers when her older sister came home from a music appreciation class in high school and told her about how opera singers trained for years before being able to have a career on stage. Zapata-Martin loved the idea of that kind of dedication to music and decided she wanted to do that for the rest of her life.
Though her parents are both wonderful musicians, they were never formally trained. Yet, Zapata-Martin says all of her musical intuitions come from hearing them sing together while her mother played the piano by ear. Zapata-Martin graduated from Grand Valley in April 2009 with a bachelor's degree in music. Her focus was vocal performance and musicology, which explores how music has developed historically and its functions in societies.
"When I first came here, I had already been studying voice with a faculty member since I was 14," said Zapata-Martin. "After a couple of years, I began studying voice with Dr. Kathryn Stieler. She encouraged me to indulge in my passion for art song and music theory, which took me down the road of musicology."
Along that road, Zapata-Martin was one of five outstanding minority students the American Musicological Society's Committee on Cultural Diversity selected to receive an Eileen Southern Travel Grant, to attend the 2009 AMS annual meeting in Philadelphia. Subscribers from more than 40 nations participate in the Society, founded in 1934 to advance research in the various fields of music as a branch of learning and scholarship.
"This opportunity is amazing for students my age to be able to hear lectures, ideas, and performances from the most distinguished minds in musicology," said Zapata-Martin. "Being able to network in this arena is an unparalleled opportunity, but the expense is too great for most people my age. As the only undergraduate to receive this honor, I am humbled. Most people have studied in this field for 10 or more years before attending this conference."
Zapata-Martin's main interest is in art song, specifically Spanish art song. Her senior project involved research on three of the 44 songs in Hugo Wolf's "Spanisches Liederbuch," from the late 19th century. She traced the original 16th and 17th century Spanish poetry through its evolutions and later translation into German by Emanuel Geibel and Paul Heyse. She also performed the three songs.
"My experience at Grand Valley was challenging, but I truly learned how to manage my personal life, studies, and professional life," said Zapata-Martin. "My mentors, Dr. Stieler and Dr. Lisa Feurzeig, are not only brilliant instructors, but fascinating people who have inspired me."