2023 graduates look back and look forward

July 16, 2023

Thirty-six students graduated from the ISM in May and have now joined our more than 800-strong community of alumni. Here, some of them reflect (in their own words) on the things they appreciated the most about the ISM and what their next steps are. These reflections were shared over the last few weeks on the ISM Facebook and Instagram channels.

Mathew Bickett M.A.R. ’23 says that his research benefitted from the ISM’s efforts to center music, performance, and art in engaging urgent questions of political and theological import. Participation in the ISM’s weekly curation of shared intellectual space among artists and researchers shepherded his work in surprising directions. These encounters via Zoom, in Miller Hall, in the Great Hall, and in Oaxaca and Mexico City transformed his thinking, as did his exchange year in the Evangelische Theologie faculty at the Universität Tübingen, which helped intensify his passion for music’s role in politically engaged theological research. He anticipates that his future research and performance career will further develop and challenge the concepts, methods, perspectives, and political commitments that have shaped his experience at Yale. Matt was one of the recipients of this year’s Hugh Porter Prize.

Emily Boring M.A.R. ’23 is grateful to the ISM for being a steady community and “home” during her time at Yale. She especially enjoyed taking classes in Religion and Literature with Chris Wiman and David Mahan, where she appreciated the chance to explore the language of faith in the modern world. After YDS, Emily hopes to write and teach at the intersection of science, medicine, and spirituality. She is a Candidate for ordination in The Episcopal Church (Diocese of Oregon). Favorite ISM memories include singing alongside talented music students in Marquand Choir, serving on the Student Life Committee, and fun events like ISM karaoke night!

William Blake Bruchhaus M.A.R. ’23 is deeply grateful for his experience at the ISM. He is most appreciative for the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary study within an ecumenical environment. Blake especially enjoyed singing with colleagues and friends in Marquand Chapel Choir and Yale Camerata. Amazed by the brilliance of colleagues and professors, Blake looks forward to how we will continue to shape and change the world in which we live. This year Blake was recipient of The Liturgical Studies Prize.

Christy Charnel M.S.T. ’23 is grateful for the many opportunities afforded by the ISM, with special thanks to her advisors and mentors, Professor Sally Promey, Dean Awet Andemicael and Director of Chapel Music Nathaniel A. Gumbs. In the fall, Christy plans to pursue her doctoral studies at Harvard University in the Committee on the Study of Religion.

Fiona Chen, MAR ’23 is deeply grateful for the ecumenical and interdisciplinary environment at the ISM which helped her grow as a person and a scholar. She enjoyed singing with the Marquand Chapel Choir, and her ISM experience also broadened her intellectual horizons as she was able to explore her interdisciplinary interests from art, liturgy, and history. She was able to further explore her interests in funerary art and liturgy through working on her ISM Colloquium Project titled, “Rites of Passage: The Ritual Significance of Edward Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius,” with Matthew Ingwersen (MM Organ ‘22). In the Fall, Fiona will be attending Case Western Reserve University for a Master’s in Art History.

Kalvin Cummings M.A.R. ’23 was deeply nourished by the inherent interdisciplinary approach to scholarship at the foundation of the ISM. This encouraged him as a scholar to reach beyond the confines and partitions to imagine and create. Kalvin intends to continue supporting the application of religious and spiritual life in the higher ed space at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He believes this is a pivotal moment for institutions to consider the importance of spirituality as it pertains to students, faculty, and staff being well together.

Joshua Ehlebracht M.M. ’23 had an incredibly positive experience during his two years at the ISM. He felt privileged to be part of an organ department where the faculty and students were welcoming, supportive, and motivated. His studio teacher, Martin Jean, was a joy to work with and taught him so much in the way of technique, but also lyricism and musicianship. The ISM gave him opportunities to work not just on his organ performance skills, but also conducting, sacred music, collaboration, academics, as well as the opportunity to develop his teaching skills to help guide the next generation of organists! Josh formed many long-lasting friendships and learned so much simply from being surrounded by so many accomplished colleagues. Overall, the time at the ISM was an uplifting and motivating experience and he would recommend it to a friend! Josh is hoping to stay in the New Haven area for a while and remain involved with the life of the ISM while pursuing a career in church music, teaching, and performance.

Heidi Moe Graviet M.M.A. ’23 feels deeply grateful to have been part of such an inspiring, generous, and talented ISM community and to have been mentored by such outstanding faculty. She says cheers to the amazing outgoing class and their incredible work! This fall, she will be doing a semester at the Japanese Culinary Institute while she applies to doctoral programs. Moe was one of the recipients of this year’s Edwin Stanley Seder Prize and the Students’ Choice for Best Colloquium Presentation.

Sea Han M.M. ’23, is ecstatic to be moving forward into the world with the wisdom and generosity afforded to them by the staff, faculty, and peers of the ISM. They fondly recall working on their Colloquium project with Madeleine Harris-Lerew (M.Div ‘24) titled “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Black Sacred Protest through Rap,”  regarding the influence and spiritual practice of Islam through rap; as well as the various recitals and concerts they took part in. Highlights of those concerts included playing Maddalena in Caldara’s “Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo” and their degree recital titled “death and grief: let’s talk about it.” They will continue to reside in New Haven after graduating with their partner and cat, Squid (pictured).

Emily Helferty M.M. ’23 Emily is grateful for all of the wonderful friends, musicians, and mentors she has met at Yale, particularly through the ISM. This has been a year of love for Emily: she took on the role of “Amor Celeste” in the Voxtet oratorio performance, she curated and performed a program of music in honour of the Three Hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for her graduating recital, and she will be marrying the love of her life in just a few weeks! She is filled with gratitude to God and all the people He has placed in her life to make completing this degree possible and can’t wait for the adventure ahead!

Haven Herrin M.Div ’23 is grateful for the support of the ISM while they explored structural and spiritual power that shapes how we perceive time, space, earth, and sound. My favorite memory is conducting a participatory sound ritual in Nouwen Chapel that integrated ancestor work, sacred sounds, and nurturing connection across distance. Haven commits their future professional efforts to bringing a bit of the artistic magic and spatio-temporal bending they learned at the ISM into corporate bodies as a consultant at Bain.

Madeleine Hutchins M.A.R. ’23 is particularly thankful for the interdisciplinary community of the ISM which has been the highlight of her (somewhat meandering) experience at Yale. The curiosity and earnest belief in the power of the arts in this community is a constant source of hope and inspiration. She is especially grateful for ISM faculty, Christian Wiman, who has been with her on the journey since 2018, as well as Teresa Berger, David Mahan, and director, Martin Jean, who have supported her in the attempt to bridge the gap between academia and work serving her Mohegan community. After graduation, Madeleine will complete Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the West Haven VA and then move back east of the Connecticut River to be with her partner, family, and tribe. Madeleine hopes to continue her work exploring and harnessing the power of story and language through Indigenous storytelling projects and involvement with the Mohegan language revitalization process. For a selection of Madeleine’s storytelling projects, see www.madeleinehutchins.me. Madeleine was one of the recipients of both the Director’s Prize and the award for Students’ Choice for Best Colloquium Presentation

Isaac Lee M.M.A. ’23 treasures his time at Yale and is grateful for the interdisciplinary learning taught here. He fondly remembers the inspiring music, organs, chapel sermons and, strangely enough, colloquium! But, he will miss his organ classmates the most and being challenged and inspired by the brightest talent there is. He is excited to be starting the D.M.A program at Juilliard (Fall ’23) and looks forward to returning to Yale when the Peabody museum opens. Isaac was one of the recipients of this year’s Director’s Prize at the ISM.

Mattias Lundberg M.M. ’23 (Choral Conducting) will always be grateful for the two wonderful years he spent at the YSM and ISM. He made life-long friendships and met so many fabulous colleagues who will continue to make music together as they enter their professional careers. He’s particularly grateful for the community at UCY and the Battell Chapel Choir, which he conducted during his second year at Yale. Next year, Mattias will begin a D.Mus. in Choral Conducting at the Schulich School of Music in Montreal and become principal conductor of the McGill University Chorus. Mattias was the recipient of this year’s Richard Paul DeLong Prize.

Ashley Vi Lynk S.T.M. ’23 found that pursuing an STM in the conversational spaces of the ISM affirmed her delight in academic inquiry, surrounded by fellow artists and creators. From Marquand services, choir rehearsals, art exhibits, and office hours, this year brought the fullness of in-person embodied learning. This enacted viscerality centered her thesis explorations. She is grateful for the many conversations and the community’s willingness to engage in meaningful discourse. Vi continues her creative exploration of ethics and liturgy next year with the practicing bodies of the Church of Heavenly Rest in Manhattan.

Molly Yuko McGuire M.M. ’23, an alto in the voice program in Early Music, Oratorio, and Art Song and a member of the Voxtet, has a passion for a wide range of music and is eager to curate a zesty musical career. Molly’s time at Yale was marked by wonderful musical experiences; collaborating with the uber-talented YSM musicians in a performance of BWV 82,”Ich Habe Genug”, tempting Maddalena with early pleasure as “Amore Terrano” in Antonio Caldara’s oratorio, “Maddalena ai di piedi di Christo” and debating the parameters of performance practice with the most thoughtful colleagues.

Meredith Noorda M.A.R. ’23 is deeply grateful for her ISM experience and the faculty, staff, and students that made it so fruitful. Among many happy memories at the ISM was working with Isaac Lee, and advisors Markus Rathey and Sally Promey, on an ISM colloquium project on Southern German rococo churches. Meredith will continue her studies of early modern religious art in the Art History doctoral program at Princeton University. Meredith was awarded the 2023 John W. Cook Prize in Religion and the Arts and was one of the recipients of the Director’s Prize.

Ryan Rogers M.M. ’23 is thankful for the amazing music made and fantastic new friendships formed during his time at the ISM. He is excited to see where his classmates’ future careers take them and is proud to know so many brilliant minds and musicians. In the fall, Ryan will begin a Doctor of Music (D.M.) degree in Choral Conducting at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington. He will also serve as an assistant conductor for NOTUS—one of the country’s most unique collegiate vocal ensembles—chorus master for The Nutcracker, and assistant chorus master for Eugene Onegin with the Indiana University Opera and Ballet Theater. @iujsom

Vienna Scott M.A.R. ’23 is grateful for her experience in the ISM. She valued being able to explore her interdisciplinary interests from poetry, mysticism, philosophy, and history. She wishes all the members of her ISM community the best and cannot wait to see where they end up!

Deborah Stephens M.M. ’23 is eternally grateful for the opportunity to take classes at the ISM with professors David Mahan and Mark Roosien. With Dr. Mahan, Deborah took “Literature of Trauma” and was able to incorporate her knowledge from this course into her colloquium project named “Trauma and Creative Expression.” In “Natural Disasters: Ritual and Theological Responses” with Dr. Roosien, Deborah explored her interests in healing, sustainability, and the relationship between the divine and man in times of natural disaster. Deborah now works as account manager for the Marian Work Study Corporation and remains in New Haven, CT with her partner.

Jared Swope M.M. ’23 is eternally grateful for his experiences studying and performing at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. From performing internationally as soloist with the Yale Schola Cantorum, compiling and performing a full chamber program for his degree recital, and even a concert of solely Gregorian Chant, he has loved the broad stretches of the experiences and opportunities throughout his time studying. Jared graduates from the ISM with a deeper connection to the music he performs, a more sound conviction of style, interpretation, ornamentation and reasons for why we do what we do as musicians.

Chris Veillon M.Div. ’23 worked as a writer and graphic designer before starting seminary. Her time at the ISM grounded her in a creative, interdisciplinary community that fueled her theological reflection, spiritual growth, and professional network. Now, she hopes to bring her passion for the church and its sacramental imagination to her vocation as an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.

Mengfei Xu M.M. ’23 feels exceptionally grateful for every single soul from the ISM community that she has met and worked with in the past two years. She enjoyed switching her roles on campus as a student, secondary lesson instructor, church musician, choir member, choral conductor, and presenter. She particularly appreciated her time working and making friends at UCY. Mengfei will continue her M.M.A. studies at Yale in the fall.

Yiran Zhao M.M. 23 is grateful for her two years at the ISM, where she felt very blessed to have worked with her wonderful colleagues and professors, whom she can call her friends and mentors. She loved the process of working on her colloquium presentation on “Spirited Away” with Moe Graviet and learned so much from watching other presentations throughout the two years. After Yale, Yiran is looking into teaching, while being active as a conductor, composer, pianist, and singer. She will miss her life at Yale, and her Marquand Chapel Choir deeply! Yiran was one of the recipients of the Margot Fassler Prize in the Performance of Sacred Music and the Students’ Choice for Best Colloquium Presentation.