Viveca Lawrie wasn’t looking to come to Bard. She was discovered—by a member of the faculty at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
Lawrie recalls that Edward Carroll, who teaches trumpet, heard her play and asked her to apply to Bard. She enrolled in the Conservatory, as a bachelor of music student in trumpet performance, and in the College, as a bachelor or arts student majoring in French studies, with a concentration in medieval studies. “The double degree appealed to me,” says the Sedona, Arizona, native. “Trumpet and French are two things I enjoy.”
Her first impression of Bard was of “a beautiful campus.” Her next impression was one of welcome. “It’s a small community and I felt part of it right away.” She soon met Karen Sullivan, Irma Brandeis Professor of Romance Literature and Culture, “and that set me up for the rest of my academic career.” She credits Sullivan with teaching classes “that were 100 percent fun,” and Carroll with “being on board with my love of contemporary music, and help with the technical side” of horn virtuosity. “Bard is very good at matching you with someone,” she says.
At the Conservatory, she and colleagues played together and critiqued one another in “brass class.” “We are a tight-knit group. We really support each other,” she says. “Elsewhere there’s competition, but it’s never been that way here.”
At Bard, “I definitely learned how to write an essay and push the boundaries of how to study.” A surprise was realizing how much she enjoyed academic research and “learning history from the perspective not of the conqueror but of those not in power. This is something that will forever influence how I approach all my research.”
With work for her Senior Project in Welsh Arthurian legend, and her Graduation Recital in trumpet, she has little time for extracurricular activities. But she works in the Conservatory audio-visual office on live streaming and recording, and gave AV assistance to a student-organized concert to benefit a Conservatory student whose family is suffering from consequences of COVID-19.
For Lawrie, that kind of outreach exemplifies the Bard community. “I meet people who are interested in what I’m doing and I’m open to what they’re doing. It’s healthy that we all show such curiosity.”
After graduation, she plans to apply to an MA program in Wales, then a PhD in comparative literature; she also wants to commission composers of contemporary works. “I think people should have multiple options,” she says.
How should high school students prepare for Bard? “Come with an open mind. I can’t stress enough how wonderful a preparation Bard’s Language and Thinking Program is for thinking about the world.” She adds, “And come uncomfortable, because you won’t be used to such focused thinking. But don’t feel afraid of it, and be open to listening to others.”
Bard has changed Lawrie’s life in myriad ways. “I am a lot more confident,” she says. “As a homeschooled student, I learned to live on my own. Here I’ve learned how to make friends. I’ve learned—through the support system, counseling, and Upper College students who do tutorials—how to deal when things don’t go my way. Every professor lets me know I can come to them with any problem, especially in the Conservatory. And the French Studies Program has more of a support system than I could imagine, in terms of recommendations, tutoring, wanting to help. Not a lot of colleges have that.”