May 23, 2017
Hillary Hempstead
Davis will explore the environment and play the violin in Samoa's capital city of Apia. Photo credit: Sophie Davis

Sophie Davis ’16, a violin performance and environmental studies double major, has received a Fulbright in Interdisciplinary Studies. She will study violin in Samoa.

Davis is no stranger to far-off travel in the South Pacific. While at Oberlin, she spent a semester sailing from New Zealand to Tahiti as part of Sea Education Association’s Ocean and Climate program. This experience encouraged her to seek out additional opportunities abroad—particularly the Fulbright grant in Samoa.

“My semester with SEA Semester and my winter term experiences abroad made me realize how much there is to learn from travel,” says Davis, who is from Waldoboro, Maine. “I realized that I learn best when I'm immersed in an experience, and the Fulbright grant was the perfect opportunity to continue learning and researching in a new environment.”

During Davis’ years at Oberlin, she battled with how to combine her two majors into one cohesive area of study. Then she learned about ecomusicology—an academic discipline concerned with the study of music, culture, and nature. “Then, I began to think about music as a medium that could raise environmental awareness by attaching emotional value and personal connection to the statistics and graphs we often see when thinking about issues like climate change.”

As a result of her studies, Davis knew that the South Pacific is susceptible to the impacts of climate change. “It is one of few places that is already being forced to deal with the impacts in very tangible ways,” says Davis. “I chose to apply to study in Samoa after learning about their National Orchestra—an educational and performance based orchestra that seeks to combine training in traditional music and western classical music. The more I learned about the program, the more I wanted to explore what it had to offer.”

Davis will live in Samoa's capital city, Apia. During her ten-month stay in the region, she will explore the connections between Samoa's environment, indigenous tradition, music education, and performance practice. She will also play her violin with local musicians and members of the National Orchestra of Samoa in order to learn more about the role of music in daily life.

“Ultimately, I hope to use what I learn in Samoa as a foundation for a music education program that connects people to the beauty, resilience, and natural resources of a place. I would love to create a program that benefits children in rural areas who are often overlooked in arts initiatives.”

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