Imai and Kaiser to pursue dual degrees in music

Talia Winiarsky and Yin Fei

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For some students, making music is more than a hobby; it is a lifelong passion. Cindy Kaiser (12) and Mieu Imai (12) will continue their study of music in college as they pursue degrees in both music and an academic subject.

A dual-degree program allows students to study two different fields at the same time in order to receive two separate degrees. Imai will begin a dual-degree program at Harvard University and the Berklee School of Music this upcoming academic year, where she is planning to study biomedical engineering and violin performance, she said.

Similarly, Kaiser is pursuing two degrees from Lawrence University, one in an academic subject from the main University and the other in flute performance and music education from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, she said.

The choice to study music at a higher level was an easy one, Kaiser said. “Music was my first language,” she said.

Kaiser remembers that at three years old, she was unable to speak, but she loved to listen to music. “The one thing I could understand when I was younger was the music in The Little Mermaid. I would listen to ‘Part of Your World’ over and over again.” That was the point when Kaiser first developed a love for music, she said.

Imai, on the other hand, decided to enroll in the program because music and academic subjects are both facets of her principle goal to improve the lives of others, she said.

“I want to help people through biomedical engineering, and I also want to see people become happy from my performances,” Imai said.

Imai is a very experienced performer and enjoys playing in front of large crowds, but her favorite audiences are those that don’t normally have access to music, such as people in hospitals or elderly homes, she said.

Dual-degree programs are notorious for their rigor, Imai said. Some of Imai’s mentors advised her not to enroll in the program because of its high workload.

“I was encouraged to focus on one and continue the other as a hobby,” she said.

Music teacher Michael Bomwell did not participate in a dual-degree program himself but studied alongside peers who did. “It seemed like a monumental undertaking,” Bomwell said.

One alumnus currently in the Harvard-Berklee program, Emily Spector ‘17, said that her high school experience prepared her for the intense demands of the program.

The music department is confident in the students’ ability. “Kaiser and Imai are incredibly focused and thoughtful in their approach to music,” music teacher Nathan Hetherington said.

Imai is the leader of the violin section for both Orchestra and Sinfonietta. When Alex Oh (10) joined Sinfonietta last year, he found that Imai was a role model for others. “She’s a fun person to be around and brings good energy to rehearsals,” he said.

Kaiser is one of the presidents of Wind Ensemble, where she mostly plays flute and sometimes piccolo, she said. “Kaiser is an example of what every Wind Ensemble member should strive to be,” band member Amiya Mehrotra (11) said.

Kaiser’s mother suggested to her that she play flute when she was in fifth grade. “I have to give my mom credit for everything she’s done, including coming with me to all my auditions,” Kaiser said.

Imai is looking forward to being able to pursue both academics and music. “Hopefully within the next few years, I’ll see a connection between music and biomedical engineering,” she said.

Although Imai aspires to have a profession in the medical field, she plans to keep music in her life, as it has been for the past 14 years. “Music has shaped me into who I am today,” Imai said.