Video: Lewiston children’s poetry inspires thesis music by Catherine Strauch ’14

Last year, as Catherine Strauch ’14 pondered the topic of her senior thesis, she knew that it had to have at least two qualities: community and music.

This video by Sarah Crosby chronicles the result: Strauch’s collaboration with Lewiston Middle School students to produce five musical scores inspired by her students’ original poetry.

“They are really baring their souls in these poems,” Strauch says.

One composition, featuring flute and violin, was inspired by a student’s poem about leaving her African country, and how her brother, a soldier, stayed behind. The violin and flute portray the siblings’ interaction, sometimes “playing off each other, and sometimes coming together in harmony,” Strauch explains.

While music has been part of Strauch’s life from a young age, she came to Bates without any interest in a career in education. “Not at all,” she says.

But one Bates education course led to another. And when she entered a Lewiston classroom to help with the after-school 21st Century Program, she was “hooked. I knew that I wanted to do something around community involvement for the rest of my time at Bates and after graduating.”

While her senior thesis project in music composition, advised by Bill Matthews, Alice Swanson Esty Professor of Music, clearly expresses a personal interest in music education, the result is also a gift to the community.

“I wasn’t just writing this music as an expression of my story and my identity,” Strauch says. “It was something for people in the community, a community that has given so much to me in my four years. That definitely was the most important part.”

After a summer working as a music counselor at Seeds of Peace, an organization in Otisfield, Maine, that helps teenagers from international regions of conflict learn the skills of making peace, Strauch is starting her career as a music educator in the Dexter, Maine, school district.

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