Student Spotlight 2020: Elena Santin

A girl sits outside in the sun.

Elena Santin received the Council’s scholarship for the second time this year.

2020 Council scholarship recipient, Elena Santin, attends Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, as a sophomore this fall. Elena wants to become a certified music therapist and is majoring in music. They had a conversation with Katherine, Council Writer, about recording a piece of music with their classmates, how visual impairment impacted their career choices and lessons they have learned during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Katherine Corbett: While going to college, what lessons have you learned?

Elena Santin: Since being away from home, I have learned how to be more independent. I have also learned how to advocate for what I need and how to navigate relationships.

Katherine: You mentioned advocacy as being a key lesson you have taken from this experience. How will you apply it in the rest of your life and career?

Elena:I have to be the one to communicate with my professors about accommodations in my classes and make sure I am getting what I need to do my best. It has been helpful to have a closer relationship with my professors than other students might. These relationships will help me in the future as I network and look for jobs.

Katherine: What did you learn about yourself throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?

Elena: I have learned that staying self-motivated is hard for me. I had a few surgeries during the quarantine and have learned patience, since it has been hard not to be able to see my friends or go out and do things.

Katherine: In your scholarship application, you told us about expanding on a piece of music you wrote and recording it with your class. Tell me more about that.

Elena: Sure. In my Applied Musicianship class, my professor announced that for our final project, two of the compositions each of us worked on earlier in the term would be chosen. As a class, we would expand on them and create a new arrangement together. We would record it during the last week of the term. My tune was one of the tunes chosen. As soon as I heard my professor say my name, I felt a sensation of warm joy rush through my body. With help from a classmate, I created a chord chart for the class to refer to as we developed our ideas. Each class period, we would go around the room and share what we had come up with. We would also brainstorm and improvise on the spot. We ended up with a solid arrangement that included a horn line, vocal harmonies, and even rain sounds. Recording day was absolutely magical. In just three live takes, we ended up with a great quality recording. Not only was the recording itself wonderful, but the actual experience of collaborating and recording together as musicians was priceless. My classmates were great about showing me where–and where not–to step so I would not trip over all the wires. I love being a part of smaller classes because everyone understands that I have a visual impairment and is cool with it.

Katherine: How would you say your visual impairment enhances your sharing of the gift of music with others?

Elena: A few years ago, I decided I wanted to pursue music therapy. Part of that decision was influenced by the fact that music therapy can be used to help children with disabilities. I have a disability and I know what that is like. Music has helped me get through life as a person with a disability and I want to reach other people with music.

Katherine: Do you have a “bucket list”? What are some things you hope to do in the future?

Elena: I want to keep growing as a person and be unapologetically myself. I would like to continue performing music, either with a group or solo, maybe as a volunteer.

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