Leah Harrison ’08: Music-Philosophy Pairing Pays Off in Arts Writing
What do you do with a major in music history and a minor in philosophy? Why, become an arts journalist, of course! Leah Harrison ’08 is applying her liberal arts education to her work as an institutional writer for Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA. She describes her job as “a dream for me.” Her job is partly public relations and partly fundraising. Leah says, “I write copy for the 42-page ticket brochure, edit the 126-page program book, and I write and manage grants.”
“As an arts writer, I rely on the rich and specific foundation of arts knowledge and history I received through my music degree…”
Leah’s path to a career in arts writing was a winding one. Her experience as a philosophy minor transformed her educational experience. “With a constant flow of philosophical thought over two years, my thought process in all fields was altered,” said Harrison. “I was able to tie a particular method of thought or use historical examples that I have learned in philosophy in my music history papers. Though I think philosophy is advantageous at any point in one’s learning, I would particularly urge a college freshman to consider taking a course. The benefits of training one’s mind to consider different viewpoints logically and from a historically informed position are exponential. Doing so could only increase the value of education.”
After graduation, Harrison was accepted into the historical musicology graduate program at Florida State University. Though she enjoyed her graduate work in musicology, her time at Florida State convinced her that “academia wasn’t the world I wanted to live in.” After completing her M.M. in musicology at FSU, she earned an M.A. in arts journalism at Syracuse University, one of the nation’s premier journalism schools.
“As an arts writer, I rely on the rich and specific foundation of arts knowledge and history I received through my music degree, enhanced by Converse’s liberal arts approach.” Her participation in the interdisciplinary Nisbet Honors Program only added to her ability to think across “genres.”
” gave me the framework and vocabulary to think and write about why, when, and how art is meaningful…”
“In my sophomore year, Dr. Reichwald suggested I take a philosophy course if I wanted to take the musicology route in graduate school, so I begrudgingly signed up for intro to philosophy with our then brand new Dr. DeLapp, sure it would be a headache of existential and abstruse whims. But with Dr. DeLapp, I learned about value, relativity, aesthetic, and ethics, which really gave me the framework and vocabulary to think and write about why, when, and how art is meaningful–skills crucial to my job as a grant writer. My philosophy classes at Converse deserve significant credit for turning me from academia towards arts communication, a field where I am very happy.”