Although violin lessons from the fifth grade served as her formal introduction to the musical world, Abigail Edwards, a Political Science major with a double minor in Music and Black Studies, recalls that “Music has always been there.” She grew up with her older brother and cousins whose tendencies to “be creative randomly” inspired her to create herself. Singing was also a part of her childhood. Rooted in Jamaican tradition, music was intertwined with religion for her extended family. “I have a great-great aunt who would pull out a hymn book after dinner, and so everyone would gather around the table and sing hymns.” These vibrant early memories of her family are the foundation of her relationship with music, which has continued to grow while at Swarthmore.
After a year of violin, Edwards switched to the cello in 6th grade and she’s been playing it ever since. While she didn’t like the violin, she describes being “so in love with the cello it’s ridiculous.” The change was in part due to the lower register and how it resonated better with her voice. As opposed to the violin, the cello “sounds closer to what I would sound like if I were singing . . . there's a lot more emotion attached to it.” In high school, Edwards played in orchestra, competitive ensembles, and for two semesters, the St. Louis Lindenwood University Orchestra after school.
Studying music and playing the cello at Swarthmore was Edwards’s plan from the start. “I knew coming in that I wanted to keep it up [and] I knew that if it wasn't structured in my schedule I wasn't going to do it.” Edwards joined Orchestra as a sophomore, when in-person classes resumed, along with Music 12 and Music 48. Since then she’s taken Music 40 along with Music History and Ethnomusicology courses with Professor Milewski and Professor Stewart.
Edwards finds meaning in her work through a variety of sources. “One is the reality of I made that, I created that, and it's a part of me essentially.” Her music has personal importance, but she believes external inspiration can come from anything. This could be a certain sound from another artist or a TV character. When listening to music, Edwards often asks herself, “‘What are they doing in this song that I really like? I need to figure that out and do something with it.’” Emotional impact comes from the sound itself. “I like for my music to sound as full as possible, as layered as possible [with] a lot of different harmonies.”
Edwards has made a positive impact on communities here at Swarthmore and in the broader area. She’s coached a Chester Children’s Choir student for the past three semesters, as well as volunteering with the Petey Greene Program. For Petey Greene, “We would go to Chester and tutor GD math to incarcerated students—it was a very monumental time for me, volunteering in that way. I gained an incredible perspective. It's one of those things that stays with you.”
At Swarthmore, Edwards worked with friends to rebuild the African American Student Association after the pandemic, and has been involved with Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA). This year she’s leading efforts to create a Black Pre-Law Society on campus.
“These experiences were really important to me because we need a space to air our experiences and share our culture.” Community has been essential in her time at Swarthmore, and she feels that she has benefited from time spent with student groups.
After graduation, Edwards is planning on attending law school and becoming an attorney. Until then, she says “I want to travel. I want to see the world, and I want to sleep a lot.”
Music will continue to be a part of her life, even as it grows to encompass traveling and law school. Art is ever-present for Abigail, as she says she is “always watching something, always reading something, and listening to music.”
Favorite Music course at Swarthmore: A music history course with Professor Barbara Milewski called Music and War. It was amazing. I had some really great takeaways from the course that are still with me.
Favorite Music making experience at Swarthmore: I took Music 12 and that course was the first time musical notation was structured into a course for me and I really enjoyed it.
What you'll miss most about Swarthmore: I’ll miss a lot of things. I’ve been given a very solid support system. There are amazing professors inside and outside of the Music department that I’ve come to really depend on. I’ll miss my friends. And honestly, I’ll miss going to lectures. Having guest lectures or department events is so cool.
What sound or noise do you love: For the longest time I love the sound of people cleaning carpets. I really love the sound of a machine hammering into a dirty carpet and cleaning it.
What sound or noise do you hate: I really don't like high-pitched, screechy noises.
What's the last song you played on your phone: Champagne Kisses by Jessie Ware. Another song I like is Roster by Jazmine Sullivan. I’ll go on walks and have it on replay.