Paola Sommer | Dean’s Award of Merit; Gentry Endowed Piano Scholarship

Paola SommerMajor: Performance (Concentration in Piano)

Minor: Italian and Biology

Hometown: Dothan, Alabama

Greatest Success on Campus: My greatest success on campus occurred during my time as President of the College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors. My term began in Fall 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. My executive team and I were faced with the task of keeping our members engaged with both the college and the community during a time of social distancing. Together, we created a Community Service Initiative that empowered ambassadors to create and implement their own community service projects in the Tuscaloosa area. Since then, we have completed 11 initiatives and counting in over 6 organizations across our local community. Seeing this idea take off and become reality was one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life. To this day, I am inspired by the determination my fellow ambassadors showed to make a difference in the face of significant obstacles and I am proud to have played a role in bringing this about. Though my favorite overall experience may also be the Ambassador Program, a close contender for this title is my membership in the Blackburn Institute. This organization opened my eyes to the issues facing Alabama, especially those in rural communities. I spent Fall Break meeting with community leaders and civil servants in rural Alabama and was struck by the vision these people had for their hometowns. They were proud of where they were from and dedicated much of their time to bettering the lives of those in their communities. This experience renewed in me a sense of pride in my home state and gave me a new perspective: dreams are still worth pursuing and better lives are still worth fighting for, no matter where you come from. Any place can improve and become home if only you take the time to make it so.

Favorite Course: It was in Music History III (MUS 323) with Dr. Christy Adams that I knew I’d made the right decision to major in music. For one hour every MWF, Dr. Adams transported us to a different era. Each lecture opened my eyes to the context surrounding my favorite composers and deepened my understanding of music’s impact on society. I think about what I learned in MUS 323 almost every day and my personal experience with music has been forever changed because of it. My favorite professor was Dr. Kevin Chance. He was my piano professor for 10 semesters, and I grew exponentially as a musician under his instruction. He challenged me to make music my own and tackle pieces using a methodical practice approach. What always struck me about Dr. Chance was his ability to understand and care about things in my life outside of music. I had several extremely difficult life circumstances during my time in his studio and he was there for me during every one of them. He understood when to push me towards a higher goal and when to give me space. He inspired me with his kindness and care towards his students and with his talent as both teacher and musician. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Chance and the time we had together.

Future Plans: I plan to study abroad this summer in Italy and to take a gap year following graduation. I then hope to matriculate into medical school in Fall of 2023.