For Lauren Falotico ’16, experiential learning was at the heart of her DePauw education and one of the main reasons she chose to attend the university. From enrolling in the Management Fellows Program and participating in many internships to balancing academics and athletics as a member of the volleyball team; traveling to Ireland, South Africa and Thailand through winter term and May term Extended Studies programs; and collaborating with professor Francesca Seaman to develop the minor in Italian Cultural Studies – such experiences complemented and enriched Falotico’s academic coursework in ways she could scarcely have imagined would be possible.
A job as a production assistant on The Jerry Springer Show turned her off from her planned career in television. A career investigating insurance fraud followed.
But Deonna Craig ’04 needed something more.
“I was making great money superficially but inside I started not feeling great because I wasn’t doing whatever ‘it’was,” she said. “And I didn’t know what ‘it’ was at the time. I just knew that I had creativity that I needed to somehow use. I just didn’t know what. So for 15 years, I just was journeying, traveling, getting my creativity out that way. …
“I’ve always doodled; I’ve always colored. But I never picked up a paint brush, and then my mom and I went on a trip to one of those wine-and-canvas type of places and afterward the instructor asked if I had ever studied art before. I said ‘no.’ He was like, ‘you probably should tap into that and kind of see where you go.’ And so I took a couple of classes and then it was all she wrote from there.”
She has sung across the globe, graced nearly every major opera house in the world and won acclaim from opera lovers and reviewers alike. And to think that the illustrious opera career of soprano Pamela Coburn ’74 turned on a single choice of opera over tennis.
Coburn had come to DePauw University with a plan to major in music education “just because I like kids and I could sing,” she says. “I didn’t really know what kind of a talent I had because I didn’t do much in high school in musicals or anything.”
During her sophomore year, her voice teacher, Edward White, asked her to sing for DePauw’s opera. She agreed to audition – though she had never seen an opera – and prepared an aria that won her the role of Suzanna, one of the leads in “The Marriage of Figaro.” But when White told her how much time rehearsals would take, Coburn balked.
“I’m on the tennis team now,” she told him. “I don’t think I can do that.”
White pushed; she relented. Opera it was.
When soprano Alicia Berneche ’93 added “librettist” to her long list of achievements, the accomplishment could be “be traced back to DePauw,” she said.
“I took a lot of poetry classes with Marion McInnes in the English department when I going there and wrote a lot. She was always my mentor and always encouraged me,” Berneche said. “She saw me perform and she was, like, ‘yeah I get it; this is what you do, but you really should keep writing and always keep writing in your life. I took that to heart. I always kept writing poetry. Over time, I had amassed these poems about what it was like to be a singer on the road.”
And when a friend, Jill Anna Ponasik, producing artistic director at Milwaukee Opera Theatre, approached her about writing an opera, Berneche showed her the poems.
He had loved music since he was 4, when he sat with his back to the upright piano as his sister took lessons and felt the rhythmic vibrations, and life as a professional musician beckoned.
But when a teenage Judson Green, already an accomplished jazz pianist and French horn player, expressed his desire to major in music at DePauw University, his father suggested a career in business made more sense.
The younger Green may not have gotten his way, but things turned out fine. His life, in fact, is peppered with similar situations. Judson Green has an uncanny knack for turning lemons into lemonade.
Music was a big deal in the Puerto Rican household in which Rafael Toro-Quiñones grew up. So was aviation.
“All my brothers, all three of them, had something to do with airplanes and something to do with music,” he said. “It was kind of part of the family, honestly. The difference is, I’m the only one who took it professionally.”
And that explains why today he is a major in the U.S. Air Force and commander/conductor of its Heritage of America Band, based in Virginia, and its Heartland of America Band, based in Nebraska. He spends off-duty hours flying little airplanes.
But there’s more to the story.