William Dowell ?22
All Stories

One decision one must regularly grapple with throughout their education and career is whether to pursue depth or breadth.

Some pursue the role of the specialist, diving into their field with a feverous intensity, while others divide their attention between different subjects. Personally, I lean towards the latter; but over the past four years, I’ve been able to both deepen specific skills and explore various intellectual and professional fields. During my time at Carthage, I have not only grown tremendously as a cellist, but I have also been able to become a better writer, conductor, and so much more. Carthage gave me the opportunities to start my journey as a musician, writer, and educator.

This journey has not been easy. To become even halfway-decent at anything requires discipline and sacrifice. I cannot count the hours I have spent in a practice room, whether it was drilling technical exercises, learning solo repertoire, or preparing for various ensemble rehearsals. I remember chamber rehearsals lasting into the night as we made time between our busy schedules. The technical roadblocks, frustrating rehearsals, and cursing sessions at a particular annoying musical passage made up a decent portion of my time struggling to become a better musician.

Some sacrifices and mistakes were more serious than others. I learned the hard way–multiple times–what happens when you sacrifice your mental and physical health for work and practice. From skipping meals to practicing to the point where it hurts to move a pencil, I pushed myself to the physical and mental edge multiple times. In the end, it was not only unhealthy, but counterproductive. Besides the numerous mental health issues that cropped up during my time at Carthage, I physically injured myself to the point where I was unsure if I was going to continue as a cellist. While I have improved both my physical and mental health, I still have to deal with consequences from those issues and must continually move forward. It would be easy to say my time at Carthage was purely a time of musical growth and exciting opportunities, but I would be lying if I did not say that there were intense challenges along the way.

In exchange for the challenges, Carthage provided me with a wealth of opportunities through its classes, ensembles, extracurriculars, and part-time jobs. One of the pinnacle moments as a musician and student at Carthage was performing and exploring Austria and Germany with the Carthage Philharmonic. That trip made classical music feel alive and reinforced the rich cultural history that surrounded the notes on the page. Not only that, but I developed phenomenal friendships with members of my ensemble through the various adventures we had.

I also had plenty of opportunities to learn how to perform chamber music with other people. Being a part of the Carthage President’s String Quartet not only taught me the fundamentals of chamber music, but also showed me the joys and challenges of working as a gigging musician. Between the various weddings, church services, and other events, I developed numerous skills that will assist me as a performer going forward. I also had the joy of deeply exploring various repertoire with Ryan Boren ’22, who was my collaborative pianist all throughout my four years. It was exhilarating performing multiple recitals with him over my later years at Carthage.

All of these performances–in addition to the many I am leaving unsaid–would have been impossible without adjunct cello faculty Peter Thomas and Dr. E. Edward Kawakami. Peter helped me reinvent my cello playing, from how I navigated the instrument to pushing me to learn a lot of repertoire. Dr. Kawakami pushed me to become a better musician and educator, to look beyond the technical challenges and actually decide what I wanted to show through the music. Additionally, Dr. Kawakami served as both my advisor and conducting professor, helping me expand my ways of approaching music. I’ve even had the privilege of conducting the Carthage Philharmonic in both rehearsal and performance settings, learning firsthand the difficulties and rewards of working with a larger ensemble. With both Peter’s and Dr. Kawakami’s guidance, I have been able to begin my journey as a musician and teacher.

Outside of music, I have been able to explore various opportunities in media and marketing. Working for the Office of Performing and Visual Arts allowed me to explore various styles of writing that are necessary for connecting the community to the arts. I also got to experience working for a small independent arts company as an intern for the Kenosha Opera Festival, where I not only furthered developed my writing, but learned the basics of photography, videography, and photo/video editing. I got to take skills I learned in my music classes–like arranging and navigating music notation software–and use them in a professional setting. Throughout that summer I also worked for the Office of Performing and Visual Arts and as a freelance cellist, which showed me that I enjoy the variety that comes with balancing various gigs and jobs.

Looking forward, I am excited to continue my studies as a graduate student at UNC Greensboro and to go on various future personal and professional adventures. Carthage allowed me to balance multiple professional and personal interests while giving me the skills to go after new and exciting opportunities. The future may not be easy, but like my adventures at Carthage, I am sure it will be worthwhile.