August 22, 2019

MSM Spotlight:
Orientation Leaders Anna Maria Vacca & Will Hopkins


Students Anna Maria Vacca and Will Hopkins give us an inside look into the preparations for MSM’s 2019 Orientation.

Anna Maria (BM ’22, Classical Voice) and Will (BM ’21, Percussion) reflect on their own first weeks at MSM, summer in the city, and what advice they would share with incoming students.

Why did you want to be an Orientation Leader?

Anna Maria: The main reason I wanted to be the Orientation Assistant was because last year’s assistant, Helena Claesson (BM ’20, Musical Theatre) made such an impression on me. She made the experience so wonderful and exciting, and I want to do my best to help these students through an amazing transition that can seem daunting at first. For me, Orientation is so much fun and completely took my mind off of the stress of moving and going to college. I want to pay it forward and recreate this experience for the new students. As the Orientation Assistant, I’ve been working all summer with the Student Engagement Office on logistics like planning events and coordinating how many students will attend.

Will: I wanted to be an Orientation Leader (OL) because it gives me the opportunity to meet so many new people. I think it’s easy to fall into the habit of only hanging out with the people you already know well when you’re a returning student, but being an OL has shown me MSM’s environment changes every year as we get a new group of students and welcome them into the community. As an Orientation Leader and a Summer English Study (SES) Educator I’ve met incredible people from all over the world. With SES, I meet with students for five hours per week and just have conversations with them to help them be more comfortable with the English language. I’ve learned so much in both of these opportunities!

Will Hopkins, Percussion (BM ’21) (left) and Anna Maria Vacca, Voice (BM ’22). Photos by Toby Winarto, Viola (BM '19, MM '21)

What was your favorite thing about Orientation when you were new to MSM?

Anna Maria: Being able to travel with the Orientation Leaders and having them guide us to all the events was a good way to get acclimated. I was worried about getting around the city and getting on the wrong train and that sort of thing, but the Orientation Leaders knew their way around which was comforting. Getting to know the upperclassman was very cool, especially when you’re a new student just leaving home for the first time.

Will: I would certainly agree that Orientation was a great way for us to become more acclimated, not only with the city, but with the people you’re spending all these years with during your time at MSM. All the events are catered to different departments too, though anyone can attend, like the Broadway shows for the Musical Theatre students and the Steinway Tour for the pianists. The Welcome Cruise around lower Manhattan is also amazing, you really get that feeling of “Wow, I really live in NYC!”.

What advice would you pass on to incoming students?

Anna Maria: We’re all here at this prestigious, amazing institution, but I think it’s important to stay grounded and be surrounded by a good group of friends. It might not be easy to find those people right away, but it’s vital to be around those who care about you and support you. My other piece of advice is to leave the practice room every once in a while and enjoy NYC! It’s easy to get wrapped up in classes and maintaining grades for scholarships, but it’s also okay to give yourself a break.

Will: The three big pieces of advice: find a really good friend group, manage your time wisely, and take advantage of living in New York City. Having a good friend group to grab food with or practice with has really helped me feel at home here. Time management was something I really struggled with in my first year, because there are always so many fun things to do, but for me education comes first. It can be tough to find that balance. You should also take advantage of everything that MSM and NYC have to offer, from student leadership positions and organizations to concerts all around the City. I went to a master class last year, and the teacher said, “as much as you practice and work hard, be a human being too – go out into the world and enjoy yourself, because it’ll make you a better person and musician”. That’s really stuck with me ever since.

Orientation is so much fun — it completely took my mind off the stress of moving and going to college. I want to recreate this experience for the new students.

Classical Voice, BM ’22

Why did you choose MSM?

Will: I applied to six music schools, three of which were in Texas (where I’m originally from), and the other three schools were in New York City. I toured every campus and met all the teachers, but my teacher at MSM (Christopher Lamb) is easily the best in my field of study. My biggest factor in choosing a school was who I would learn from, and I knew I was going to be in good hands here.

Anna Maria: I was not immersed in the classical world at all until my senior year of high school. I had taken guitar lessons my whole life as a hobby, and my teacher encouraged me to take singing lessons. I ended up being paired with a classical teacher, which I didn’t expect, and she told me that I needed to audition for conservatories. I knew I wanted to study music, so I auditioned and got in! I was accepted to a few other conservatories, with the final acceptance coming from MSM. I couldn’t deny living in New York City and studying with my teacher, Catherine Malfitano – she’s awesome!

What else have you been up to this summer?

Anna Maria: I actually have a second job — other than working at MSM — I work at a coffee shop on 82nd. So obviously working has been a huge part of my summer, but also being able to not worry about classes and exploring the city has been very cool. I’ve been taking subway train trips and just randomly deciding when to get off so I can find new and interesting places. It’s been so much fun!

Will: I have not been in New York very much this summer. I just got back from Texas where I was participating in The Round Top Festival Institute. It’s great being back in the city! Like Anna Maria, I’ve been able to explore a lot; I found this vintage video game shop in Midtown, I always love going to Central Park to read a book, and seeing new museums and monuments. Now that we’re getting towards the end of summer, I’m practicing a lot and gearing up for a new year and the performances and competitions that come with it.