The universal connections of music and Fulbright

In my never-ending pursuit of becoming the best musician, I can possibly be, Fulbright, aided me in successfully taking my next step. In the last couple of months, I have become friends with people from all over the world, including the U.S., Korea, New-Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Trinidad, and Tobago and Paraguay. People in and out of the music field, searching for knowledge, personal growth, global connection, and fulfillment. As much as I had to fight to get to this point in my life, it is nothing in comparison to the amount of purpose and fulfillment I currently feel. Yet, with the current health crisis, the collapsing economy and the uncertain future that a lot of us – and in particular fellow musicians – face, I want to zoom in on the one thing that has connected us all. The love for doing what we do and the urge to collaborate, in whatever way we can, is something that I believe will help us overcome anything.

Collaborating in the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University

As a musician, collaboration is a vital part of your education and further development. However, it was only at the Jacobs School of Music that I was assigned a fixed amount of hours to accompany fellow students. Having to prepare all this music in addition to the solo repertoire – often times very close to the concert deadline – was often very stressful, but also made me a better reader, communicator and musician overall. I collaborated numerous times with the clarinet studio, but I also had the pleasure of working with two exquisite singers and a versatile guitarist. Those projects resulted in some pretty cool concerts that included masters recitals, but also a fully original concert program with classical and musical theatre repertoire. Were it not for Covid-19, we would have continued collaborating on stage and in the recording studio, but nonetheless we made some good memories along the way and continue to stay in touch. Below are two videos with wonderful musicians I could share the stage with.
With Jessica Bittner on her BSOF recital February 17, 2020
B. Pasek/J. Paul – Pretty Funny from the musical Dogfight
With Josef Lamell on his second Masters Recital March 8, 2020
Lili Boulanger – Nocturne, arranged by Josef Lamell

Collaborating outside of the Jacobs School of Music

However busy we constantly were, that did not mean we restricted our performances to school-related projects only. In February 2020, I was lucky enough to attend a Fulbright Enriching Seminar in Nashville, focusing on Digital Technology and the Future of the Music Industry. Apart from the wildly interesting information, businesses, events, and seminars we attended, I got the opportunity to connect with 136 fellow Fulbrighters from 68 countries. The four exhausting, but truly fulfilling days, came to an end with an open mic event where anyone who wanted to share music got on stage. Professional musicians and amateurs shared the stage, music and laughter filled the room, and even though country music is not at all within my comfort zone, I was persuaded by an Australian composer to perform “Sweet Home Alabama”. Having over a hundred people sing along this classic in such a setting is truly one of the greatest feelings a musician can experience.

With Azariah Felton during the open mic. Picture by S. Bird

And of course, the moment the pandemic hit and everything went into lockdown, we worked on new material and ways to get music out there. Together with my roommate and one of my closest friends here in the U.S., I worked on Béla Kovács A la Flamenco. A wonderfully Spanish influenced piece, originally composed for clarinet solo as a homage to the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. This will be part of our portfolio once we finish completing a new concert program and music can be performed for live audiences again.
With Julian Sanchez as part of his Quarantine Sessions series May 5, 2020
B. Kovács – A la Flamenco

The connections through music and Fulbright

Fulbright, just as music, provides a community. A collection of similar spirited people, ambitious and open-minded, trying to connect and better the world in whatever way they can. It was not until I came to the US that I fully realized what an incredible resource Fulbright is, how well it is known, how much it means to be a part of this group, and how it provides human connection, much like music. A big thank you to all the people who make this program happen, it truly changes lives.

Fulbright Nashville
Group picture of all the Fulbrighters present in Nashville. Photographer unknown

Nathalie Matthys is a Belgian 2019-2020 Fulbright Student in Music to Indiana University. Nathalie Matthys obtained her Master of Arts degree in classical piano summa cum laude at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent in 2017, as a student of Vitaly Samoshko. She became a successful candidate in numerous piano competitions and participated in several national and international masterclasses. Alongside her classical performances, Nathalie is also active as a jazz pianist, jazz vocalist, and lyricist for jazz band Dr. Rhythm and jazz duo Common Ground.

Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State