Madeline Douglas, senior Oxbridge music major and communication minor, started playing piano in second grade—but not by choice. Her dad, who studied piano at William Jewell College, made her start.
“My dad is a pianist and he has played piano for as long as I can remember, Douglas said. “It has been a really big part of my music life.”
When Douglas started playing, her dad had to sit with her and make her practice. In the sixth grade, she quit piano. But, in the eighth grade, she went back to it; this time, starting was her choice.
“I went back to it because of a song that was the first song to move me emotionally and physically,” Douglas said. “I realized that I have the capacity to do that for other people.
Douglas still plays piano, and she studies with Dr. Calvin Permenter at Jewell.
“I’m glad I still study piano because I want to have it on the side and constantly be improving,” Douglas said. “Studying music has been challenging because it is difficult to make something that is your favorite hobby and passion an obligation.”
Currently, Douglas is working on a Clara Schumann piano concerto, a duet with cello. Douglas explains that before this year she had never played a classical work by a women composer. Last summer, however, Douglas received an Oxbridge summer research grant for a project about women jazz musicians in Kansas City. For her senior Oxbridge music project, Douglas researched women composers and presented a lecture recital in March.
“Playing music by women composers has been really great,” Douglas said. “It’s nice that after 15 years of playing I can still discover new things. Doing my project on women composers project made music feel like less of an obligation.”
Additionally, Douglas explains, she has performance anxiety. Researching women composers made Douglas realize the connection between passion and intimacy.
“I finally connected with the music and wanted to share that with others,” Douglas said.
After, graduation, Douglas will continue to play piano, but she has never really wanted to be a performer.
“I like to play at weddings or galas and to provide music as a background experience for others’ really important milestones,” Douglas said. “I’d like also to teach lessons, so others can experience piano through my journey.”
“I feel like to experience music is to experience vulnerability and the most important thing I’ve learned while studying piano at Jewell is how to experience vulnerability by sharing with others,” Douglas said. “That is the most challenging and rewarding thing a pianist can do.”
Photos by Harper Vincent.