The John V. Roach Honors College congratulates our May 2023 graduates! We proudly celebrate the accomplishments of our students, like Andrew Vargas a piano performance major. He spoke with the Honors College about his undergraduate research, Honors College experience, and post-graduate endeavors.
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Degree: Bachelor of Music in piano performance
Why did you choose your area of study?
Being a concert pianist was a career trajectory I was looking at from a young age. I met Dr. Tamás Ungár at the Piano Texas International Festival & Academy at TCU during high school. I took some lessons from him at the festival. I continued my lessons afterward, which made TCU one of the first places I applied to.
Tell me about your research. How did you become interested in it and why is it important?
Usually, people walk into a concert hall, and there’s an unspoken law of behavior that people feel they must follow. If people aren’t used to that environment, it can be intimidating. I wanted to organize informal concerts for students for my Honors project.
I set up a series of concerts using the grand piano on the fourth floor of the Brown Lupton University Union (BLUU). This is a great space for people to have their lunch or study, and we try to encourage this relaxed environment in the concerts. My departmental Honors project talks about the process to obtain approval, scheduling the concerts, and setting up the area in the BLUU. I also explained how I organized student musicians to play at the concerts.
Everyone had positive reactions to the concerts. The performers talk to the audience, which is something very important to the ethos of the concert series. I wanted to break down walls between the musicians and the audience. I also aimed to program the recitals with pieces that everyone would know. We had people come up to us after the recitals and say, “I’ve heard that piece on YouTube, but I have never had the opportunity to hear it live.”
Tell me about an impactful Honors experience.
I truly trust my Honors advisors, and I know they understand what they were doing. At times, I was so worried about messing something up when selecting my courses, but they explained everything so well to me. In a way, they did more than just Honors advising. They helped me understand the reasoning behind all my requirements.
What’s next for you, post-grad?
I will be doing a master’s degree in piano performance at TCU and further my personal study of piano repertoire and music composition.
How has Honors prepared you for what’s next?
All my music theory and ear training courses were in Honors. Those sections were rigorous and set me up with a strong foundation. They were fast-paced, so I learned information quickly but efficiently.
What is a piece of advice you’d give to an incoming Honors student?
Be a generalist. Generalism is the idea of not focusing on being the absolute best at one particular skill, but being generally competent at a variety of skills. It is better to be 80% competent at multiple skills and combine them in interesting ways rather than trying to be number one at only one thing, and then possibly failing. For example, having a consistent 70% competency in skills such as writing, reading great literature, finances, communication, and fitness is better than trying to have a 100% competency in only one of those activities.