Esther Miller ('09)
Violinist and music teacher, Tennessee
I graduated from Calvin in 2009 with a double major in music and history. I'm finishing my Artist Diploma certificate at the University of Memphis. I got my Master's degree in violin here as well, and my current program involves playing in the Memphis Symphony and taking lessons at the University of Memphis. I also teach private Suzuki violin lessons and teach violin part-time at Union University in Jackson, TN. I'm hoping to audition for orchestra jobs this year and also apply for music teaching positions.
Why did you choose to major in history at Calvin?
I've known ever since I was a little kid that the two things I wanted to study were music and history. I love learning about people and how they think, why they do what they do, what influences them, etc. I also really enjoy research and writing papers. Studying history also provided a way for me to bring together my other interests in literature, art, culture, and philosophy.
How did your time at Calvin prepare you for what you are doing now?
At Calvin I learned how to think deeply about integrating my Christian faith into every subject. Being a Christian matters when you carry out historical research, when you discuss ideas, and also when you practice and perform symphonies and concertos. Although few classical musicians receive liberal arts educations, I believe that mine has enabled me to have a fuller understanding of the music I perform. Understanding the historical context of a work I'm performing, or the philosophy which influenced the composer, or the cultural context, all influence my musical interpretation. Through the writing I did for my history and English classes, I learned how to communicate meaning to other people, and I continue to do this in a different way through my violin.
What are some of your memories of the Calvin History department?
I remember many interesting discussions among my fellow students in my 300-level classes about philosophies of history and Prof. Kate van Liere's wise interjections into our arguments. I loved being challenged to think about difficult subjects in Prof. Berglund's Eastern European history class, and his keen interest in every question we asked. I also remember Prof. Du Mez's encouragement when I visited her office agonizing about what to do after college.
Do you have any advice for current students or those thinking of majoring in history at Calvin?
Find ways to incorporate your different interests into your studies of history. Professor Berglund helped me find a senior thesis topic which drew together my interests in music and history. Get to know the professors and ask them lots of questions about everything.