If you had asked Joey Rabchuk what he wanted to be before enrolling in college, he would have answered, “a doctor.” But a love of music persisted and evolved over four years at West Virginia University, and he’ll take that love to one of the greatest universities in the world, the University of Oxford.
Rabchuk, who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, had been fairly set on a career in medicine, though he had been active in orchestra through his high school years in Macomb, Ill. When a family friend encouraged him to consider WVU’s College of Creative Arts, he gave the school a shot. (That family friend happened to be Paul Kreider, dean of the College, which may have given the recommendation some extra weight.)
“I came out here to audition and have a trial violin lesson with Professor Mikylah McTeer, and I loved it,” he said. “She’s a fantastic player, teacher, and is an incredibly warm person.”
It was a hard decision, but in the end, the chance to work with McTeer, the opportunity for a tuition waiver, and a flexible academic program that would allow him to pursue both music and pre-med led him to become a Mountaineer.
Of course, part of a university education is being exposed to new topics and ideas, and those experiences led Rabchuk in a new direction.
“Musicology became really interesting to me when I started to realize how broad the field is,” he said. “I think the stereotypical conception of musicology is that it’s kind of dry, and generally irrelevant to the everyday experiences of most people. But that’s completely untrue.”
Rabchuk finds the field “incredibly lively, and there are so many perspectives from which you can analyze music. Two people who helped him explore those perspectives were Travis Stimeling and Evan MacCarthy, both assistant professors of musicology in WVU’s School of Music.
“Dr. Stimeling took an approach to the survey classes that emphasized how music stood in relation to its culture of origin and how colonialism and things like that affected it, which I really liked,” Rabchuk said. “Also, his first lecture at WVU, which he gave while applying for the job here, was about Taylor Swift and gender in music. That was awesome. The opportunity to work with Dr. MacCarthy has been just as inspiring.”
“Joey is an inquisitive and thoughtful student and, using the liberal arts foundation that the Bachelor of Arts in Music offers, he has crafted an impressive variety of experiences that will serve him well in our field,” said Stimeling, who gave Rabchuk the opportunity to work on his project researching West Virginia songwriters. “I’m eager to watch him flourish as he continues his studies and begins to enter the profession.”
“Since meeting Joey for the first time last fall, I’ve been impressed by the enthusiastic curiosity that he brings to all aspects of musical study, quickly drawing on reading and methodologies from other disciplines to inform his research,” said MacCarthy.
His minors in anthropology and philosophy have helped him forge other intellectual connections, and they helped him decide to pursue graduate school.
“When I was searching for programs, my mom sort of jokingly suggested Oxford, but I didn’t look seriously at their program until this past winter break,” he said. “Dr. MacCarthy suggested I look at schools in the United Kingdom since their admission deadlines are usually later in the academic year.”
“Graduate study in the U.K. is often structured around a different academic model than the one we have here in the United States, including the tutorial-based system of teaching as well as shorter term lengths that can allow additional time for independent research,” MacCarthy said. “Joey strikes me as someone who would thrive in this model of study.”
Research into Oxford’s musicology program led him to discover faculty members who share his scholarly interests, and, with Stimeling and MacCarthy’s encouragement, he applied.
“Getting the letter of acceptance felt strange,” he said. “I remember when I first saw the email that I was shaking a little bit. It was really shocking. There was no chance in my mind that I would actually be accepted, so it was a gigantic, more-than-welcome surprise.”
Rabchuk will celebrate that surprise – and his journey from potential MD to future Doctor of Musicology – at the WVU College of Creative Arts Commencement at 4 p.m. Friday, May 13, in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre of the Creative Arts Center.
CONTACT: David Welsh, WVU College of Creative Arts
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.