Nik Divall ’24 Earns Fulbright to Germany

The classical guitar performance major plans to pursue a master’s degree in historical performance, basso continuo playing.

July 2, 2024

Communications Staff

Nik Divall holding Lute
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Nik Divall ’24 earned a Fulbright study/research award to Germany and plans to spend the 2024-2025 academic year in the German port city of Bremen pursuing a master’s degree in historical performance, basso continuo playing.

“Basso continuo was a method composers of the baroque period used to inform semi-improved accompaniment for singers and other instruments,” he explains. “I will focus my studies on three instruments: the theorbo, archlute, and baroque lute. These three lutes were ubiquitous with all European chamber music from c. 1600-1750.”

Divall, a conservatory grad from Sydney, Australia, who majored in classical guitar performance, is particularly excited about the instructors from whom he’ll be learning. “In Germany, I will have the wonderful opportunity to play this music regularly under the guidance of many of the most experienced early music specialists in the world, such as Joachim Held, who will be my private lesson instructor.” Consider it an extension of his time at Oberlin, which he says “truly provided an array of mentors and diverse experiences that collectively nurtured my growth.”

How did Oberlin shape or influence you to pursue the Fulbright?
When I started school in fall 2020 as a full-time classical guitar player, I would never have guessed that I would end up playing the lute of all things. But a multitude of factors in my first in-person semester at Oberlin in fall 2021 encouraged me to give the theorbo a try. 

First, [the course] History of the Baroque taught by Andrew B. Meldrum Professor of Musicology Steven Plank inspired me to explore the vast repertoire of amazing music that exists in the time period. Once I realized that I could participate in this music myself by learning to play the theorbo, I was hooked.

I also owe a lot to my guitar teacher Stephen Aron, who not only supported my growth as a guitarist, but as an overall musician by encouraging me to pursue as many opportunities as possible in early music. This included the Fulbright, where he urged me to research and explore the many possibilities that a Fulbright scholarship would open up. I now feel truly fortunate to have a financially covered opportunity to move overseas and pursue my very niche musical passion.

How did Oberlin shape or influence you as a performer?
When I decided to learn how to play theorbo, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a wonderful community of amazing early music faculty and students. After just a few weeks of learning the instrument myself, I was able to throw myself into many different ensembles and learn from professors of other instruments such as Mark Edwards (associate professor of harpsichord) and Edwin Huizinga (visiting assistant professor of baroque violin). Since then, I have played in countless small chamber music ensembles with a variety of instrumentations; each cycle of the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra; and the Oberlin Opera production of L’Orfeo. Therefore I can credit a lot of my growth simply to being put in situations where I had to learn on the spot. Since learning to play the theorbo, I have developed a strong passion for chamber music and look forward to any opportunity to collaborate with talented, passionate musicians.

How does pursuing the Fulbright align with your post-college life and career goals?
After my education I will pursue a freelance career as a basso-continuo lute player as well as a classical guitar soloist. The exciting promise of this career is that I will be privileged enough to make music in a variety of genres on various instruments. Seeing that Oberlin equipped me with the training to be a classical guitarist, the Fulbright scholarship will award me with the essential training I need in order to work professionally as a basso-continuo player. Furthermore, moving to Germany, the center of the western classical music tradition, will lead to many potential professional connections and friendships, all of which will most definitely impact my opportunities as a freelance musician.

If you’re a rising or graduating senior interested in Fulbright, connect with Fellowships & Awards to learn more about pursuing research or an arts project, obtaining a graduate degree, or teaching English in a foreign country of your choice following graduation.

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