Don't Stop the Music

Megan   Dietrich

Class of 2021 • Pylesville, Maryland
Having studied vocal performance—primarily operatic—since she was 14, Megan Dietrich knew that when she went to college, she would major in music. She didn’t know that at Washington College she would expand her repertoire to include styles as disparate as folk and cabaret, let alone that she would end up minoring in anthropology.


“The anthropology department and music department are actually pretty closely linked,” she says. “We are one of a very few colleges that has an ethnomusicology minor, which is approaching music from an anthropological view—studying music from different cultures, how it evolves, how it’s placed in the culture and the society. And it’s always interested me.”

She’ll dive more fully into that realm in January when she travels with music and anthropology faculty who lead the Cuba Experience, a 10-day trip to Havana during which students live with local families and fully immerse in the musical culture of the city and country. Students attend musical performances and religious ceremonies throughout the city, contrasting the intimate Santería ritual drum and dance performances in private homes with church-sponsored carnivals and high-production commercial performances at such notable venues as La Cuerva y El Zorro, EGREM, and the Tropicana. Free to explore the city in the afternoons, the students’ home bases are just a block from the iconic oceanfront pedestrian walkway, the malecón, and Havana’s tourist and cultural centers, museums, and music clubs. 

It’s another opportunity to expand her musical horizons that Megan has enjoyed. 

“In the last couple of years, I’ve really branched out into musical theater, some cabaret, folk, a variety of things. I’m open to everything,” she says. Under the tutelage of Ken Schweitzer, associate professor of music, she’s studied music production, electronic music, composition, and recording methods.   

The faculty, she says, “are all just so helpful and they’re really passionate about what they do. And if you show initiative and you come to them with an idea—‘I have this project that I really want to do, do you think you can make that happen?’ – they will move heaven and earth to make sure you get the time and the resources you need. They just really want to see students thrive.”

As a member of the Musicians’ Union, she and other students volunteer their talents throughout the community. Among other things, they help out with Chestertown’s jazz festival and they’re frequent visitors to Heron Point, the local retirement community.

“It’s just so much fun. A lot of the residents there have dementia and Alzheimer’s, but seeing how music can just light up their faces, and they’ll remember the lyrics and sing along. It’s just incredible.”

Megan will perform a recital for her Senior Capstone Experience. An hour-long performance, she will develop the themes, categories, and repertoire, as well as arrange and perform it. It will total between 20 and 25 pieces and include art songs and arias, musical theater, and cabaret.

And along with a broadened repertoire and an anthropology minor, she’s become a scuba diver while at WC. It happened when she was registering for an advanced class and advanced scuba popped up. “They have scuba here?” she remembers thinking. “I’ve always wanted to scuba dive, I’ve always loved the ocean and the water,” Megan says. So, she took the beginner class, got her initial certification, and has moved on to the advanced open water class. 

Megan's Four Year Plan

Year 1

Favorite Class Musical Theatre Practicum

“It was so experimental and so creative. Students could really take the lead on that. Basically we made our own musical where we took pre-existing songs and changed the lyrics, talking about Washington College life.”

Year 2

Learn by Doing The Musicians’ Union

This student-run organization provides students of all skills levels and musical instruments and genres a place to gather, practice, socialize, and volunteer their talents in the community.

Year 3

Learn by DoingThe Cuba Experience

Spending 10 days in Havana, Cuba, over winter break with faculty from music and anthropology, Megan and other students will fully immerse in the city’s vibrant music and its inextricable links to Cuban culture.

Year 4

Looking Forward To Senior Capstone Experience

Megan will perform a senior recital, an hour-long performance that will include 20 to 25 pieces including include art songs and arias, musical theater, and cabaret. She will develop the themes, categories, and repertoire, as well as arrange and perform it. It will total between 20 and 25 pieces.