Meg Ozawa ‘23 believes that the joy of studying music comes from putting yourself out of your comfort zone. “I was definitely someone who liked to explore many different things. I love music and all aspects of it, so anything music-related I wanted to learn. Whether it was music theory, musicology, or performance I wanted to learn more. If it has to do with music, I'll probably be there.”
Ozawa recalls her journey as a musician beginning at a young age, starting private piano lessons when she was only 5. While music continued to be very influential in Ozawa’s life before coming to Swarthmore, she was largely self-taught after she stopped taking piano lessons in middle school. She became involved in chorus in high school, qualifying for her Area All-State ensemble, but had never received any formal vocal training. During her free time, she taught herself how to play soprano ukulele, baritone ukulele, and guitar, while simultaneously rebuilding her piano skills. With her growing passion for music, Ozawa knew the moment she stepped on to Swarthmore’s campus that she would pursue music as a major alongside economics.
Ozawa began taking private voice lessons through the music department during her first-year at Swarthmore, which served as her first exposure to opera. She credits her teacher Lara Nie as being unwaveringly supportive and a big reason why she has improved so much as a vocalist. Ozawa has lent her vocals to the Chorus, serving as the alto section leader for three semesters, as well as the Jazz Ensemble. In addition to voice, she has played percussion for both the Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble. Ozawa is involved with the Fetter Chamber Music Program, which has allowed her to explore different musical interests. “Starting with a Barber Shop Quartet in my junior year, I was able to learn how to sing in a small group and I was able to learn about barber shop culture and tradition. Then I was in an opera duo with Cassidy Cheong '23, which was the first time I'd ever performed opera duets with anyone. The latest Fetter Group I'm participating in is a Jazz Combo group, which has taught me how to work in a band setting and learn to balance my [voice] against different instruments.”
Outside of her music coursework, Ozawa has been involved with Jazz Poetry Night since her junior year, when her close friends decided to bring back the long-standing tradition after a pause due to COVID-19. Jazz Poetry Nights are held bi-weekly in the WSRN room in Parrish, and students have the opportunity to share poetry with the accompaniment of jazz music. “Jazz Poetry has been one of my most favorite experiences because it challenged me in a way I have never been challenged as a performer. Prior to Jazz Poetry, whenever I had to perform I always had rehearsals, lessons, coachings, etc. Jazz Poetry is a form of improv, we'll do covers of popular jazz standards or pop songs on the spot or we'll come up with our own groove and everyone will improv over that. We never rehearse before a Jazz Poetry night and that is the point. I've never had an experience like this before coming to Swarthmore and it has helped me improve as a performer and musician.”
Ozawa first considered having a senior recital after Nie suggested the idea during her junior year. Now, after months of preparation, she is looking forward to performing for the Swarthmore community, saying “It will be a culmination of everything I’ve studied at Swarthmore musically.” The program includes opera pieces, as well as modern numbers performed with her contemporary jazz ensemble, The Jazzberry Jams. She says, “It will be a very eclectic night to say the least.” The recital will be held on April 14th at 7 pm, in the Lang Concert Hall.
While Ozawa is still in the process of figuring out what she wants to do after graduation, she is certain of the fact that music will continue to play a big part in her life. Although she is excited to see what the future holds, she says she’ll miss the amazing music faculty at Swarthmore. “I’ve had classes with almost the entire music department and they’re really helpful, not just with class but also life in general.”
Favorite Music course at Swarthmore: Zombie Art?: Why Opera Will Never Die with Professor Milewski
Favorite Music making experience at Swarthmore: Jazz Poetry Night; it’s an experience I’ve never had before coming here and it also has this grungy liberal arts vibe
What you'll miss most about Swarthmore: Everything I’ve done in music
What sound or noise do you love: Bubble wrap
What sound or noise do you hate: Velcro
What's the last song you played on your phone: 'Every Summertime' by Nikki