Several of Mercer’s music students are pursuing further education in the arts.
Among other student musicians, Denzel Washington, Victoria Yrizarry, Reed Tucker and Kennedi Johnson graduated May 13, but they’re not stopping there.
Denzel Washington is a senior from Waycross, Georgia pursuing a bachelor of arts in music (saxophone) and a minor in Christianity.
“Music has always been a part of my life since [my] elementary school days,” he said.
Washington knew he wanted to pursue music in college but didn’t know what exactly he wanted to do.
“It was after my first theory class project that I realized that I wanted to be a composer,” Washington said.
After graduation, Washington plans to attend the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to pursue a MM in music composition.
He said his favorite memory from Mercer was his freshman year when it snowed.
“Like actually snowed,” he said. “And it was also the same year I got to travel with the Mercer basketball team to the NCAA tournament.”
Eventually, Washington said he wants to start a company that will help promote and protect the music of young talented composers.
Victoria Yrizarry is a music education major with an emphasis in voice. Her hometown is Augusta, Georgia.
“Ever since seventh grade, I knew that I wanted to become a choir director, because I had an incredible middle school choir teacher,” she said.
Yrizarry said he inspired her to share her passion for music with others. At the beginning of freshman year, she began to realize that studying music was a lot harder than she had originally thought.
“While completing this degree has been difficult at times, I have truly grown to appreciate music and singing as both an art and a discipline,” said Yrizarry.
Yrizarry plans to become a double bear, as she will begin graduate studies in Choral Conducting at Mercer this upcoming fall. Once she earns her master’s degree, she wants to become a middle school choir director.
Yrizarry said her favorite memory is performing at Carnegie Hall in New York with Mercer Singers in February.
Senior Reed Sarasua Tucker from Sarasota, Florida is majoring in double bass performance.
“I chose music as a major because it was important to me, and I love what music meant to me,” he said.
During his time here at Mercer, he grew to love music for what it means to others.
“Mercer taught me that pursuing music as a profession can never be for selfish ends but rather must be pursued for others, namely audiences,” he said.
In the fall of next year, Tucker will continue his double bass studies at The Juilliard School in pursuit of a master’s degree. He is a recipient of a Kovner Fellowship that will fund his studies and room and board while in New York City.
Tucker said his favorite memory at Mercer was earlier this year when the Mercer Singers and the McDuffie Center for Strings gathered on the rooftop of the new Lofts across Mercer University Drive to play and sang Come Thou Fount for President Underwood and a group of Mercer Trustees.
Kennedi Johnson is a music education major from Decatur, Georgia.
Johnson said that because of the United States’ economic and social divide, all children are not afforded the same opportunities, and that is the reason she decided to become a music educator.
“Although I believe economic and social schisms are highly systematic, I believe children can overcome their station through a genuine education,” she said.
Because the music school here is small, Johnson said she was able to get to know the professors and other students very well.
“Being around so many people who are passionate about and — to say the least — good at what they do is awesome,” she said. “It’s inspiring to get the chance to be around people like this every day.”
After graduation, Johnson will be going to Indiana University with a Graduate Scholars Fellowship to earn her master’s and doctorate in ethnomusicology. She plans on studying the black music of the Americas and, after earning her doctorate, she plans on teaching at a college university or working within the public sector as a librarian, archivist or curator for a museum, she said.
“As an educator, musician and black woman, I’m also really interested in music being used as a tool for social justice,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s favorite memory at Mercer is the time she spent in flute choir rehearsals.
“My flute teacher is pretty hilarious, at least to me and my friend Sophia [Harlan],” she said. “So there was never a dull moment.”