Remember the iconic Fisher-price toy piano? That vibrant, brightly-colored plastic piano is Mia Shoquist’s earliest memory of music, and she just so happens to be wrapping up her four years at Swarthmore with a dual-degree in Chinese studies and Music. An accomplished vocalist and pianist, Shoquist began playing piano at the age of five and began singing in her local church choir at seven. Throughout her educational journey, music has been a core tenet of her experience.
Since her freshman fall, Shoquist has been heavily involved in the Swarthmore music community, whether acting as a student librarian in Underhill, singing as second soprano in the Choir and Garnet Singers groups, or participating in student productions. To her, chorus groups are opportunities for Shoquist to form collaborative relationships with other musicians that pianists often cannot connect with, given the solo nature of their performances. Musical productions offer a similar opportunity for musicians and performers to “tell a story, come together with people, make beautiful music, and entertain and brighten people’s lives for an evening.”
In true Swarthmore fashion, Shoquist’s senior composition project --a final culminating presentation for graduating seniors -- draws from her background in Chinese studies and Music, as she critiques and discusses how orientalism, exoticization, and fetishization are exemplified through Eastern women in the 1980s musical, Miss Saigon. The play, an adaptation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, tells the story of the failed romance between a U.S. Marine and an underage South Vietnamese girl.
In the future, Shoquist plans on tying her musical and artistic background into her pursuit of medicine as she applies for medical school in the fall: “I firmly believe that music is the flip side of the coin to medicine, and music and medicine are inevitably interlinked where medicine heals the physical body while music heals the spirit, mind, and soul. I’ve seen that in so many situations, singing in nursing homes, performing in communities, and seeing how music brings people together in times of crisis and healing.” Regardless of her career path, music will always be an integral part of her life, whether it be through listening or performance.
Favorite Music course at Swarthmore?
Chorus, Musicianship with Hauze -- I learned how to listen to music in new ways, look for chords, tune in.
Favorite Music making experience at Swarthmore?
Being a part of Swarthmore’s musical production, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as well as Tom Whitman’s timely Cassandra in the midst of #metoo.
What you'll miss most about Swarthmore?
All the moments in Underhill with students and friends.
What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of waves crashing on the beach shore.
What sound or noise do you strongly dislike?
Nails against a chalkboard.
What's the last song you played on your phone/mp3 player
Ella Fitzgerald They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Rec: Tenderly by Billie Holiday