Editor’s note: This is an ongoing series meant to highlight student artists in art, music and theater on Union’s campus.
Junior art major Ashley Beck knew she wanted to pursue art therapy after volunteering at a transitional home for sexually abused women.
“I liked the pairing of art and building relationships,” Beck said.
Beck is the first Union student to go through her major of pre-professional art therapy, she said. The program combines an art major with a built-in psychology minor.
Because her mother, grandmother and aunt are all artists, Beck said she has always been interested in the field.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunity to work with different mediums,” she said, adding that her favorite is watercolor: “I like the freedom that there is in that.”
Beck’s most recent project was a collaborative piece with women in prison, to whom she taught a watercolor class, she said.
She mounted 2,000 squares of her art and theirs on a black wall in Union’s student gallery.
The class was “a way for [the women] to escape how mundane prison life is and learn about themselves,” Beck said.
A common struggle for art students is balancing their visions with practical limitations, Beck said.
“You have all these ideas, but sometimes you have to tone down the idea and really focus on being good at your craftsmanship and your technique and learning that first before you can move on to big projects,” she added.
Reed McLean, freshman computer science and music theory double major, plays more than five instruments, including the upright bass for Union’s orchestra, but his favorite is the electric bass.
“You get to feel groovy,” McLean said.
His love for music developed despite a sour introduction to cello in sixth grade, McLean said. A friend introduced him to electric bass and guitar in the eighth grade, and upon applying to Union, McLean was offered a music scholarship.
“I like writing music more than playing it,” he said. “So I love music theory.”
McLean said he might add a minor in music composition.
Outside of classical orchestra pieces, McLean said his music taste is varied. “I like a lot of pretentious indie stuff, a lot of happier pop stuff,” he said. “I’m a die-hard Ke$ha fan … anything really happy and obnoxious.”
While endless hours of practicing and one- and zero-hour music classes can be frustrating, McLean said, the payoff is more than worth it.
“You get to make music, you get to learn about music, you get to make music with other people,” McLean said.
As an undergraduate, senior music theory major Will Burke has already tried his hand at one of the most iconic characters in English literature: William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
The tragic role was Burke’s favorite by far of the four he has played at Union, he said.
“On top of the prestige of playing such an important character … Hamlet is really fun because he has so many emotions that he has to convey, and he only has so much time and so many lines to convey them,” Burke said. “He says one thing, but really what’s going on in his head is the complete opposite, so you have to convey the fact that he’s lying with the fact that he’s lying to himself.”
Burke’s other theater credits include “The Winter’s Tale,” another Shakespeare play, a student-directed one act based on the opera “Carmen” and a comedic role in “Barrel Full of Pennies.”
Burke, whose father is Union’s theater director, said he has been involved in theater from an early age. His first “real role” was a child in the children’s play “The Pied Piper,” he said.
“There’s nothing like being able to feel the vibe of an audience,” Burke said. “You can almost feel them communicating with you, telling you what they want you to do … I can tell when the audience starts to drift, I can tell when the audience is completely focused. That’s a really rewarding thing.”