Graduation: A time for celebration and reflection; a time to say goodbye to friends and prepare for the future. Graduating students Lauren Rault and Heidi Keener highlighted those sentiments during prepared remarks at the Graduation, Hooding, and Awards Recognition Ceremony on May 12.

“I’m so grateful for everyone I’ve crossed paths with over the past four years,” Rault said. “No matter how small the interaction, every single person I met made me better in some way, so thank you.”

Held at the Hamel Music Center, a portion of the ceremony included recognition of all students who have earned School of Music awards over the past year. The Class of 2023 joins 4,702 living School of Music alumni.

“No matter where you go in the world, you are likely to meet other alumni, and be reminded that you are forever a Badger,” Director Susan C. Cook said.

Watch the live stream: 

Heidi Keener, DMA Flute Performance ’23, offers remarks on her time at the School of Music.

School of Music choral students perform “In My Life” and “The Road Home” during the ceremony.

Chris Fiol, MM Tuba Performance ’23, accepts a pink rose from Professor Martha Fischer. Pink is symbolic of music in academia.

Jerzy Gillon, MM Vocal Performance ’23, accepts a pink rose from Professor Martha Fischer.

Jason Xue, Piano Performance ’23, and Shelby Miller, MM Flute Performance ’23, attend a post-ceremony reception in the Hamel Music Center lobby.

Karen Szczech, MM Violin Performance ’23, Amelia Simpson, Violin Music Performance ’23, Dr. Dawn Dongeun Wohn, Jane Krasovich, Violin Music Performance ’23, and Nithya Attipetty, Cello Music Performance ’23.

Andrew Voth, DMA Choral Conducting ’23, and Herbert Payung, DMA Wind Conducting ’23.

Hanna Noughani, Oboe Music Performance ’23, Dr. Lindsay Flowers, Professor Emeritus Mark Fink, and Keslie Pharis, MM Oboe Performance ’23.

Let’s celebrate: Students and supporters attend a a post-ceremony reception in the Hamel Music Center lobby.

What are your plans after graduation?

Next fall I will be heading to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music to begin pursuing a master’s degree in percussion performance.

What will you miss most about the School of Music?

I will definitely miss the people from the School of Music the most. I have made lifelong friends and collaborated with many incredible musicians. All the faculty I had the pleasure to learn from have given me knowledge and skills I will cherish for the rest of my musical career.

Any advice for incoming freshmen? 

I would say do more than what you are required to and work with as many people as you can! I love playing with percussionists and always will, but I have also learned a lot from working with wind, brass, and string players. Different instrumentalists bring different perspectives and I feel like I learned a lot from people outside my area.

Favorite spot on campus?

There are so many incredible restaurants down State Street, but some of my favorites include Conrad’s, Mooyah, and HopCat.

Any humorous SoM stories to share?

One of the most memorable concerts I played was a percussion ensemble concert my freshman year. All I did that concert was run around Mills with a metronome and dog toy, tap-dance with shoes on my hands, and play electric guitar (with no guitar training).

What are your plans after graduation?

I am going to be teaching in Philadelphia for the next school year, as part of the ArtistYear Americorps program.

What will you miss most about the School of Music?

I’m going to miss the people I got to share music with. There was so much compelling music being made, it was truly inspiring.

Any advice for incoming freshmen?

Be relentlessly you. Never let yourself take away from it.

Favorite spot on campus?

I don’t mean to be super corny but my favorite spot is the tuba room. Seeing so much tuba/euph history in one place is very humbling. To be allowed in that space is wonderful but being able to add something to it was an absolute honor.

What are your plans after graduation?

During my time at UW, I majored in Music Performance (Percussion), Neurobiology, and Psychology.

After graduating in May, I will continue to pursue a career in neuroscience. I have accepted a position as the Lab Manager for a research group at the UW-Madison Waisman Center that studies the neurological basis of speech production and acoustic processing. Language, sound, and music are all intrinsically linked in the brain, so I feel that working with this research team provides me with a perfect opportunity to bridge between my fascinations in both neuroscience and music.

In the coming year I plan on continuing to teach music. I have a small private piano studio where I currently teach 10 young students. Additionally, I will keep taking gigs that come my way, and will also continue studying and performing Brazilian samba music.

In the future, I plan on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology with an emphasis in pediatrics. I love working with children, and I hope to integrate music into future therapeutic approaches and community building initiatives for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

What will you miss most about the School of Music?

After graduating, the thing I will definitely miss the most is the family-like community of the percussion studio here at UW. Over the past 5 years I have formed so many strong bonds, and I will certainly remain close friends with the people I have met in this program. However, I will miss the comforting routine of spending most of my days with other studio members, making music and making mischief in the basement of Humanities. We could always be seen moving about the SoM as a pack, going on coffee runs together, eating dinner together, studying together, practicing together, relaxing together, celebrating together, and supporting each other.

We have something truly special in the UW-Madison percussion department, and I will always be thankful to have been a part of that community!

Any advice for incoming freshmen? 

I have two pieces of advice for incoming freshman:

As a young player, the only person that you should be comparing yourself to is the past version of yourself. It is not useful to compare yourself to others around you – you only need to focus on your own progress in order to build a strong foundation. I was the only freshman in the percussion department when I began studying here, so I spent a lot of time comparing myself to older students who had far more experience than me. This was not helpful for my confidence! However, at the end of my freshman year I thought back to where I had started and realized that I should be quite proud of all the progress I made.

Secondly, take advantage of the SoM community! Freshman year is a great time to meet lots of new students, especially students who may not play the same instruments as you. The more people you are able to connect with, the more performance opportunities will be available to you over the next four years.

Favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus is the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. This building is so relaxing, with tons of sunlight and a peaceful atmosphere filled with water features and greenery. This was my favorite spot to study, because it didn’t feel like I was cooped up inside.

Another favorite spot of mine was the Reading Room at the Wisconsin Historical Society. This room is beautiful, and makes you feel like you are at Oxford! It is a great place to be quiet and productive, and enjoy being surrounded by books.

Any humorous SoM stories to share?

One of my favorite memories from the SoM is when we used to have a “Pun Jar” in the percussion studio storage room. That year, we had a couple of students in our studio that could turn almost anything you said into a joke or pun. We responded with exasperated (but good-natured) amusement, and instituted a “pun tax”. Every time someone made a pun in rehearsal or in the vicinity of the percussion rooms, they would be called out by fellow studio members and asked to put 25 or 50 cents in the jar. We did this for a whole semester, collecting contributions from percussion students, professors, and even a visiting guest artist! By the end of the semester we had $120 in the jar, which we used to purchase food for a big studio picnic after our juries.