Student Spotlight

March 1, 2014

A Semester of Connecting the Academic Dots

Emilie Coakley, M.A.R. ‘14

Ed. Note: This article originally appeared in the ISM admissions blog Prism for Prospects on January 2, 2014.


As the holiday season passes us by and I reflect upon the semester that has just wrapped up here at YDS and the ISM, I must admit, I’m a little sad it’s over.  Don’t get me wrong, having four seminars’ worth of papers behind me is a joy indeed, but I’m referring to that twinge of melancholy that I get at the end of most semesters here, when I feel that my classes have all ended just a little too soon.  And yet, it’s good to know that I will miss that class—those people, that professor, the dynamic and often synergistic learning experiences you’ve shared—that missing is good, for it fuels me to yearn to learn more!


Fall 2013 was perhaps the most quirky and in many ways quintessentially “ISM” course load I have ever taken here, indicative of the incredible diversity of thought and opinion that makes this Institute, school, and University one of a kind.  Of my two courses with ISM faculty, Music and Theology in the Sixteenth Century was probably the closest amalgamation of my music and religion M.A.R. coursework that I could have asked for.  Through a series of stimulating lectures—ranging from the dynamics of politics, propaganda, philosophy, and persuasion—our professor, musicologist Markus Rathey, illuminated the sights, sounds, and thoughts that made this time of reformation into a musical and theological revolution.  By the end of this course, I could begin connect some of the moves made by 16th century reformers to changes that occurred centuries later (specifically the musical reforms coming out of the Councils of Trent and Vatican II), cognizant of the cultural contexts that encouraged many a musician and theologian to go, back to the sources, while aware of the connections that bridged time and place in an almost mind-blowing manner. 


It was with a similar sense of synergistic glee that I took Ritual Theory in Liturgical Studies with ISM professor Melanie Ross.  Learning about theories put forth by such famed anthropologists as Clifford Geertz and Victor Turner alongside liturgists and ritualists, provided great overlap with Politics of Culture in Southeast Asia, a course I took “downtown” in the anthropology department.  As a student of ethnomusicology and religion, I am perpetually impressed by the opportunity at the ISM to take classes in theories, histories, and concepts that are both so diverse and at the same time so interconnected.  Tying together all my interests, through the courses I take and papers I write—such as a final paper on incluturated music in the Indonesian Roman Catholic Church for professor Chloe Starr’s Christianities in Southeast Asia—has allowed me to develop an incredibly broad yet interrelated base of knowledge that encourages me to connect seemingly disparate dots of thought in a manner that enriches and informs my work as a scholar, and my personal curiosity about the infinite number of things I have yet to learn.