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Next semester, the Undergraduate Music Fellowship will give students living in college houses the opportunity to receive free music lessons.

Credit: Vanessa Weir

One of the best aspects of music is its power to bring people together.

Next semester, the Undergraduate Music Fellowship will allow students to build community in their college houses through music. The fellowship hopes to provide free music lessons to Penn students living in college houses if they complete a final performance-based project.

The fellowship provides an opportunity for students to create their own musical programs, which would typically involve other college house residents. Whether they want to start a brass band in the Quadrangle or a jazz night in Du Bois, their college house will support them and provide free lessons as a perk.  The fellowships will be paid for by Penn's music department.

The concept was inspired in part by the Rodin Opera Scenes, which was created in 2014 by a group of students with a shared passion for opera, Director of Four-Year Houses and Residential Programs Ryan Keytack said. The students put together an evening of opera scenes that they performed for members of Rodin and other Penn students.

The students who organized the opera performances aimed to bring the arts to their college house. Keytack said it is important to expose college house residents to culture, adding that the Opera Scenes might have been some students’ first exposure to opera.

“The idea is that they’re doing something innovative with regard to music inside a house community and engaging the community in that way,” Keytack said.

The fellowship allows students to get creative with their musical undertakings. For example, Keytack said one student expressed interest in exploring the indie music scene in Philadelphia. Fellows are given an opportunity to pursue their interests.

“There are students out there wanting to do more, but [they] haven’t necessarily had an avenue by which to do that. So for us, that’s what this is all about. It’s a platform. It’s a chance for musical expression that connects to community and residential living and benefits anyone who engages,” Keytack said.

The fellowship is an evolution of the Blutt College House Music Program, which is co-sponsored by the music department and the Office of College Houses and Residential Services, through which students can take private music lessons for credit, then give performances inside the college houses. The difference between the Blutt Program and the new fellowship is that, next semester, students will be allowed to take the lead, rather than performing under the supervision and control of an instructor.

For spring 2016, Keytack expects only one or two fellows, as the program is still in its pilot phase. But if all goes well, the fellowship will likely expand by next fall. The expansion could mean more fellows or even wider ranging opportunities for students passionate about other artistic disciplines, he said.

The article has been updated to reflect the Music Department's involvement in the fellowships.

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