Sociology major sings his way to Yale

Originally published in The Mooring Mast April 25, 2014

Three years into his music degree, then-junior Brendan Fitzgerald needed a break. He switched his music major to sociology, but kept singing with the Choir of the West as a hobby.

So when a professor asked him if he’d like to study music at Yale, he thought it was a joke. Little did he know he’d be accepted — and offered a full ride.

“Two weeks later, I had completed a full graduate application, and two weeks after that, I was on a plane to Connecticut, where I auditioned for Yale’s school of music,” the now fifth-year senior said. “A week later they called me — I’m going for free to an Ivy League grad school.”

Fitzgerald said he began singing before he could walk. His formal music education began with piano lessons when he was in first grade, and he began singing with the Tacoma Youth Chorus at age 7. He performed several operas at Pacific Lutheran University and with Tacoma Opera.

“It [music] became engrained into who I was,” Fitzgerald said.

During this time, Fitzgerald developed a passion for sacred music, particularly from the Baroque period.

“It’s really what I feed off of,” he said. “I tell people all the time that if I could sing just Bach for the rest of my life, I’d be the happiest guy ever.”

Fitzgerald began pursuing a music major at PLU in 2009, but after completing three years of the program, he decided to pursue another course of study.

“I was kind of going through a reevaluation of what I wanted to do later in life,” he said. Some people had told him he didn’t need an undergraduate degree in music. “Music has just been always a part of what I’ve done, and I didn’t want to make myself hate it,” Fitzgerald said.

Changing his major required Fitzgerald to stay at PLU an extra year to finish his degree. It was during his fifth year that a professor recommended he apply to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

“It’s that [Baroque] music that really speaks to me and makes sense, and so that’s why it was even more astounding when I found out that this program was the one that was available. Everything just fit perfectly,” Fitzgerald said.

Two paper applications, two interviews and one audition later, Fitzgerald had completed his application process in less than two weeks’ time.

“It was a wild ride all the way,” he said of the process. “It was really exciting. It was very stressful, but you know, I felt good about it going into it, and I felt good about it coming out.”

Though Yale is best known for its law school, the Ivy League university also boasts a reputable music program. Fitzgerald said the program is known by people in the music business for the caliber of musicianship it puts out.

“The program itself is really widely-known,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s really intimidating to look at it as an Ivy League school, so I just look at it as another chance for me to go out and sing some Bach.”

After he completes his graduate degree, Fitzgerald said he hopes to sing professionally in London, a city he fell in love with in 2011 during a summer traveling abroad.

“Music has taken me so many different places. I don’t ever want that to stop,” he said. “I want to see everything, and if I could travel for the rest of my life, I totally would.”

Fitzgerald said music has always been a part of what he has done, and he didn’t want to make himself hate it.

“But this new opportunity and where I’m at in life has really shown me I can do it [music] as much as I want to do it and not get upset with it, and not get frustrated,” he said.

Despite his hiatus from music, Fitzgerald remains optimistic about pursuing a graduate degree in it.

“It’s what I love doing, and it’s what I want to do later, so it’s going to be great,” he said.


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