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Senior finds way to combine love for music and science in future

| Judy Berthiaume

Gina Cruciani grew up surrounded by music thanks to a talented family whose members have for generations made the arts a central part of their lives.

While Gina has her family’s talent and passion for music, she came to UW-Eau Claire thinking that she’d rather pursue a career outside of the arts.

As she considered her options, Gina found herself intrigued by the field of medicine and what might be possible for her there.

Eventually, however, her lifelong love for singing began to tug at her again. She missed having music be part of her daily world.

Luckily, she took an innovative class that combines music and science in ways that are inspiring her to pursue a career she hadn’t known even existed, one that will allow her to nurture her interests in both music and medicine.

Now a senior vocal music major with a pre-professional health sciences minor, the Eau Claire native hopes to work in the fields of voice science or voice pedagogy, giving her opportunities to work with medical professionals who support singers, teachers and others who depend on their voices to be successful in their jobs.

Gina, who plans to graduate in May 2017, took a few minutes to talk about her journey as a Blugold and where she hopes her education will take her in the future.

Tell us about the role the arts have played in your life.

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Both my parents are alums of the UWEC music department. My mom holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in piano from UWEC and my father has a choral education degree from UWEC.

My maternal grandmother and great-grandmother were piano teachers. My paternal grandmother was a beautiful singer and frequently sang duets with her twin sister.

I grew up singing primarily, but I also play piano and played the oboe in high school. I was very involved with the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre growing up, participating in community theater shows such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Sound of Music.”

Whether it was at church, home or school, music has been always been a significant part of my everyday life.

How did you discover a love for science?

I love academics. I can’t say I had a love for science growing up. I enjoyed biology and chemistry in high school, but music was more of my focus.

When I came to UWEC, I came in undeclared. At that point, I did not think I wanted music to be a part of my job.

I began shadowing family friends in various jobs to try to find something I could see myself doing as a career. I shadowed a general surgeon in the clinic and in the hospital, and I found it incredibly fascinating and challenging.

At that time, I also was taking a biology class as a GE. I loved the class, particularly the challenge of it. I decided I wanted to go to medical school. I enrolled in biology, chemistry and physics classes while shadowing doctors in the area and volunteering at Mayo and Sacred Heart.

Last summer, I realized I missed music as a part of my daily life and wanted to incorporate it somehow into my career plans.

In the fall, I took a class called “Vocal Pedagogy” in the music department. This class was about the anatomy and physiology of singing, and how to incorporate it into teaching someone to sing. I fell in love with it!

For the first time, I found a way for my two interests, science and music, to come together and build off one another.

I quickly knew this was a field I wanted to explore, and something I wanted to be a part of my everyday life.

Being able to combine science and music was a dream come true to me! I felt as if I didn’t have to choose what I wanted to pursue anymore because I continue working in both.

What career options will are possible with a graduate degree in vocal pedagogy or voice science?

Voice science is a relatively new field. It combines vocal pedagogy with working in a research lab setting studying how the human voice works. It’s being pioneered by Scott McCoy, the director of the Helen Swank Voice Teaching and Research Lab at The Ohio State University.

The voice science degree equips specialists to assist doctors, teachers and therapists who work with professional voice users such as singers, actors, teachers and others.

I’d love to work in that capacity. I’d also love to work in a lab doing research on the human voice.

It also would allow me to teach vocal pedagogy and related courses, which I would be interested in.

This kind of specialization allows me to pursue many different career paths.

How has UWEC encouraged you to nurture your interests in the arts and the sciences?

I feel so fortunate to attend UWEC.

With its emphasis on liberal arts, I’ve been able to take classes in the sciences and music, and have them count for my major and minor.

I’ve had great faculty mentors on both sides of the river who have appreciated my love for both disciplines, and helped me foster this passion by always encouraging me to pursue both.

I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to take classes in physics, biology and chemistry, while still being active in the music department, performing in recitals and being in the opera.

What kinds of outside-the-classroom activities have you found in these areas?     

On the science side, I’ve been fortunate to shadow a lot of physicians in different specialties.

Last May, as part of a joint effort among the Health Careers Center, the music department, and the communications and sciences disorder department, Dr. Rima DeFatta, an otolaryngologist who specializes in voice disorders, came to campus to give a talk about vocal health. I had the privilege of meeting her and spending some time shadowing her at her clinic.

I was in the Marshfield Clinic shadowing program, where I spent two weeks shadowing physicians in different specialties through the Marshfield Clinic.

To fulfill my service-learning requirement, I volunteered at Sacred Heart Hospital in the Surgical Family Waiting Center. I also volunteered at Mayo Hospital in various departments.

In music, I’ve been involved in various ensembles. A highlight was the Women’s Concert Chorale tour to Ireland in 2014. I’ve sung in many recitals and master classes, and gave my junior recital in November.

Last March, I was in the opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” singing the role of Susanna, which was an incredible experience. I grew tremendously as a performer and a person.

More recently, I sang with the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra and Women’s Concert Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Frank Watkins, as the soprano soloist for Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.”

I had the privilege to go on the New York City aspiring artists immersion trip during spring break.

This semester, I’m involved in the touring opera. We will bring a shortened English version of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” to schools across western Wisconsin.

I’m grateful to UWEC that I’ve been able to explore both of my interests. My experience at UWEC is one I could not have gotten anywhere else.

What do you hope comes next for you?

After graduate school, I hope to still combine my love for science and music!

I hope to find a job that allows me to work within both fields, continuing to build my knowledge of the human voice while still performing.

Any advice for current or future Blugolds?

I’d urge students who have interests that at first glance seem incompatible to continue to explore both areas and any possible avenues to combine them.

The beauty of a liberal arts education is that you can explore many different subjects that interest you.

Never stop pursuing what you’re passionate about and you’ll be amazed at what doors will open for you.

Photo caption: Gina Cruciani sings in the role of Susanna during a spring 2015 performance of the opera “The Marriage of Figaro.”