Today, we feature Lia Boncouer, who graduated from Rowan’s Music Performance program with a concentration in Clarinet Performance. Currently, Lia is completing her Master of Music degree at the University of Michigan. She discusses her undergraduate experience at Rowan, her journey to becoming a Music Performance major, and shares details on her recent acceptance of a prestigious job with the U.S. Navy Fleet Bands.
Why did you choose to study Musical Performance?
It was the only career that I felt I’d be truly happy pursuing for the rest of my life. I actually thought about majoring in biology and teaching with that at first. However, when I was 15 or 16 years old, I had a conversation with my biology teacher in high school and she told me she had been teaching the same lesson plan for 15 years. Something about that conversation scared me away from that degree and future career path. The thought of teaching the exact same thing for 15+ years made me sick. I did not want to be doing the same thing everyday and I found excitement in new projects.
How long have you known you wanted to pursue Musical Performance? Did you experience an “it” moment where you know you chose the right field of study?
I would say that I have wanted to pursue Musical Performance since I was about 17 to 18 years old. I just really did not have the courage to pursue the career until the end of high school because I knew I was very behind in just playing the clarinet in general. The moment when I realized that I was pursuing the right field was actually when I was in high school and I was talking to my band director. I was unsure if I wanted to pursue sciences or music and he told me that I was meant for the music field and I had that I had the passion and drive to be able to thrive in the field. He expressed that he was not going to tell me what to do but that I should definitely consider a field in music.
For me, after hearing the faith my band director had in me, I realized that this field was not only important to me, but that I wanted to have that impact on some student in the future.
Why did you choose Rowan to study your undergraduate degree?
To be honest, it was the only school that I got into that I could afford. I wish I had more of a magical ‘Rowan University was my dream!’ experience, but that’s my truth!
When you were a student at Rowan, what clubs, organizations or activities were you a part of?
I was a part of a music sorority called SAI for four years at Rowan. I was also a member of student government for a year to branch out and meet new people. Finally, I played Rugby for a year.
Knowing that you are now finishing your Master of Music degree at University of Michigan, how has Rowan equipped you with the skills to thrive in a competitive academic environment like a master’s program?
From my academic standpoint and my music performance standpoint, my professors at Rowan instilled in me to always keep pushing myself to my maximum potential. I know that answer is quite generic; however, it is so true. It is really easy to fall off the tracks in music because like anything, practice makes perfect. But, for music, you have to be willing to put in the work everyday.
I went from Rowan to University of Michigan. Rowan is very small when compared to University of Michigan. In my undergrad studies I had class studio sizes of nearly seven people. In my master’s classes my studios reached over 30 students, all of whom are extremely talented. I learned from my professors at Rowan to develop a mindset of being a self motivator and to never settle for anything.
Did you always have plans on attending graduate school after college?
Yes. Regardless, I knew I wanted to get my master’s degree. My clarinet professor also highly encouraged me to do it as well. This only made me want to pursue my master’s even more.
Were there any classes you took or professors you met that inspired you to pursue graduate school or inspired you to pursue music in general?
There are two professors that come to mind from Rowan. My clarinet professor, Dr. Rie Suzuki Huebner, and Joseph Higgins. They were the two professors I spent the most time with at Rowan, and I was with then every semester for five years. These two professors were and are so passionate about making sure their students are continuously learning and growing, and the environments that they cultivated truly made me into the musician that I am today. Having their support for a full five years is what got me to where I am today.
Can you talk about what you have been doing since graduating from Rowan?
Since graduating from Rowan, I’ve been pursuing a master’s degree in clarinet performance at the University of Michigan. During my time here I’ve been able to push myself to the edge of my limit — and then some. With all the hard work I’ve put in, I’m very happy that I won a job with the U.S Navy Fleet Bands! This is such an exciting opportunity to perform with other professional musicians around the US (possibly the world!) and I look forward to getting the process started.
Do you have advice for scholars looking to pursue their master’s?
Yes, my advice would be to definitely pace yourself and always be your own motivator. Going into a master’s program is super intense because you’re surrounded by so many people who are so good at what they do. It’s easy to be discouraged. But you have to take a step back, breathe and remind yourself that everyone has their starting point. This is yours!
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