Caelia Marshall ’23 is a singer.
Like many students pursuing their passion for music at Trinity, she isn’t actually a music major. But Marshall, a neuroscience major from Atascocita, Texas, is still on a music scholarship, sings in ensembles, and has her sights set on a career in research that combines science and music.
“In a dream world, I would like to do research on how music can affect and treat degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimers,” says Marshall. “My uncle suffered from dementia, and by the end stage of this disease, he couldn’t say anything. But whenever we would sing to him, he could sing along.”
Trinity wasn’t a school that Marshall had originally considered. But after coming on a tour, which she called an “incredibly personalized experience,” she began to see herself here at Trinity. Choir Director Gary Seighman even reached out to her personally after her visit—something no college professor at any other school had done—to tell her about a music scholarship that wouldn’t even require her to commit to being a music major.
That meant coming in as a first year, Marshall had more space in her courseload to explore different STEM fields. She took a few basic courses—found that she didn’t like chemistry, for starters—then discovered neuroscience going into her sophomore year, and never looked back.
“I’m taking neuroethics with Dr. [Kim] Phillips, the neuroscience department chair, and I’m really enjoying the whole ‘ethics behind the brain’ [angle]—it’s both humanitarian and science issues that come together,” Marshall says.
Marshall, who still is a music minor, doesn’t mince words about the challenges of pursuing two different academic interests: “The classes are hard in both subjects,” she says. “But I’ve gotten into a groove, finding a good balance with finding time to go to the practice rooms for music, and spending a lot more hours studying for STEM tests.”
Part of that groove is due to Trinity’s inclusive approach to music, Marshall adds. “One thing I like about music at Trinity is that any level of interest you have, you can be as involved as you want. You can minor, get a B.A., a B.S., or just join an ensemble.”
Marshall is currently a member of the Trinity Chamber Singers, a group open to any student by audition. She joined an opera workshop as a first-year where her class prepared to stage a complete opera production (before Covid-19 brought down the curtain prematurely). And this year, she excitedly points out that Trinity’s choir is going to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall. “Trinity’s choir has also gone to places like Austria,” Marshall says, “So music at Trinity will afford you opportunities to see the world, and to ‘get out there.’”
Behind those opportunities are valuable resources, such as Trinity’s nationally lauded faculty. Marshall’s favorite professor so far has been soprano Jacquelyn Matava: “She teaches aural skills, she’s really personable, and she makes music easy to learn,” Marshall says. “You understand her expectations, which is something I really enjoy in my studies.”
And, of course, Marshall’s music scholarship has also played an incredibly important role in her success at Trinity, though she almost backed out of the opportunity entirely.
“I was super interested to hear about this music scholarship, where you had to come to campus and perform a song, and do some sight reading exercises, but I was sick during the audition,” Marshall recalls. “I actually was sick that weekend, but I still went, tried it out, and got an email back that I had been granted the scholarship. And without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been here at Trinity.”
Marshall adds. “Wherever else I would have ended up, I definitely would have been less involved in music. [This scholarship] holds me accountable in a way, because it keeps me involved, even without being a major.”
Marshall urges other prospective students to apply to the same Trinity music scholarship, even if they’re nervous, or on the fence in a similar way. “There’s no downside,” she says. “Just apply to whatever you can, don’t overthink it, just try out and see what happens. Don’t worry about singing in front of people - just do it.”
Marshall is glad she took on the challenge of auditioning: Now she’s in a groove that has paved the way toward a meaningful career in research.
“I definitely want to achieve groundbreaking work in Alzheimers and dementia music therapy; this is such an untapped field,” she says. “Now, I feel that’s an impact I could make.”