1997 graduate receives prestigious Javits Award


Jeanne Ryan '97 is one of just 22 fine arts students from across the country to receive the prestigious Jacob K. Javits Fellowship and it will cover her tuition and expenses while she studies for a Ph.D. in musicology at the University of Chicago.

Named for a former New York senator, the fellowship was awarded to Jeanne by the U.S. Department of Education based on her "demonstrated achievement and exceptional promise" and an application in which she wrote, "It is not merely a love of higher education that draws me to graduate study." She noted that she spent most of her life studying piano, composing choral and popular pieces and singing with various concert choruses and bands. But at Fairfield, she found she could combine academics and music into a career.

She recalled that her first meaningful teaching experience came when she tutored a Swedish exchange student who was having difficulty in a class in jazz history. "Although I had tutored math, Spanish, and physics for some time, the first student in music history was the turning point for me. I had found a calling."

In discussing the Javits Award, Jeanne cited other turning points in her life that resulted from attending Fairfield University.

The first came when Dr. Javier Campos, associate professor of modern languages and literature, inspired her to study in Chile for a semester. Through the School for International Training, she focused on Chilean culture, politics and religion, traveled around the country and visited villages becoming familiar with the music as well. The result was a paper in which she analyzed how the dictatorship had inhibited the development of original music - particularly rock music - for 17 years so that U.S. rock became dominant and was often the only music heard on radio.

A second major impact on her was an independent project on the life and music of Aaron Copland for which Dr. Orin Grossman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was her advisor. "He assisted me in obtaining countless CDs and biographies of Copland and I was assigned research papers." Although she feels drawn to the late works of Beethoven and Berlioz, having studied Copland she is considering further pursuits in American music.

The third major turning point she describes with emotion in her voice. Discussing the assistance she received from Dr. Beverly Kahn, associate dean of Arts and Sciences, Jeanne said, "I owe her everything; she changed my life."

It was Dr. Kahn who found the information about the Javits Award, encouraged her to apply and counseled her. In fact, Jeanne's appreciation of the support she received from faculty and administrators prompted her to say that she hoped she could return someday to Fairfield University as a member of the faculty.

As an undergraduate, Jeanne was active at the University as a member of the Glee Club and the Chamber Singers. She wrote her own music and performed, culminating at the 1996 Christmas concert with "Quiet Peace," her first choral work.

As a result of her varied interests, she double-majored in music and in English literature, double-minored in Latin American Studies and in Spanish, received the Humanities Department Award for Distinguished Work based on her paper "Chilean Rock vs. Anglo Rock" and was an intern for music professors. Her research included dozens of interviews with radio personnel, record company executives and professional musicians. She was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, and a Dean's List student seven semesters and received the University's Mary Louise Larrabee Fine Arts Scholarship. This $2,200 award enabled her to take five summer music courses at the Mannes College of Music in Manhattan, studying the works of Mozart, Handel, Bach the history of singing and music theory.

A resident of Trumbull and a graduate of Lauralton High, she is the daughter of James Ryan, a consultant for environmental chemistry, and Dr. Mary Ann Ryan, associate dean of the School of Continuing Education. Jeanne noted that the music talent appears to run on the women's side of her family since her mother and grandmother performed as singers and an aunt recorded her own folk songs and lullabies.

As she looked ahead to her trip to Chicago, Jeanne commented, "I have benefited immeasurably from the opportunities offered by Fairfield's music program."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 1, 1997