2021 Undergraduate Music Majors Receive Distinguished Thesis Awards



Every year, the Music Department graduates a number of promising and accomplished music majors from the College. We are very excited to celebrate the achievements of three of this year's graduates who have received honors for their Bachelors theses.

Leonard B. Meyer Prize for Musical Excellence

Eva Burgos

The question that motivates Eva’s research is this: how did reggaeton become a resource of identity for young, progressive Latinx students who formerly considered the genre to be homophobic or misogynistic? Drawing on extensive ethnographic interviews with Latinx undergraduate students, she argues that this explosion of interest in reggaeton is related to new forms of boundary crossing and transgressions of genre, gender, and market. She begins with a brief review of the literature on reggaeton, most of which focuses on earlier moments in the history of reggaeton, before moving into her original research. 

The faculty felt that Eva’s thesis was meticulously researched and beautifully written; it also makes a genuine contribution to Latin American Music Studies. Eva is a sensitive interviewer, who elicited deep and evocative reflections from her interlocutors and wove them deftly into her account, which also included her own close readings of music videos, recordings, and performances like the Super Bowl.


In this thesis, I will examine modern reggaeton through a combination of musical analysis and interviews. Although there have been significant writings on reggaeton, its development, and its explosion in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, few have written extensively about the reggaeton of the last five years or so. Reggaeton has transformed significantly in recent years, especially with the progressive and experimental contributions of such artists as Bad Bunny. I will focus on the ways reggaeton has transgressed and transcended musical, cultural, and ideological boundaries by analyzing music award shows, events like the Super Bowl, as well as recent releases and music videos by reggaeton artists. I argue that recent changes in reggaeton have attracted a new generation of listeners, cultivating an increasingly diverse pan-Latinx identity in the process. Reggaeton has moved beyond standard genre conventions and is no longer defined by the dembow beat, but instead continues to develop into a broader style that is becoming more inclusive than ever before.

Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prizes

Victor Cui

From the Introduction to Centesima Lucis, for saxophone quartet:

"I simply couldn’t stop thinking about the chief in The Last Quarter of the Moon, the last of her line. Everyone in her life has died, her homeland displaced, her culture dead. The entirety of what she lived for has been ruthlessly bulldozed by an aggressive, pseudo-utopic modernity, and then, within the blink of an eye, was swept under the malodorous davenport like some pieces of a broken Fabergé egg. I was thinking of her when I wrote this piece. Not in sadness, no, nothing like the that notoriously continental emotion that haunted Young Fauré and Old Debussy. I was thinking about her life as the most ecstatic experience, with its ebb-and-flow, up-and-down, topsy-turvy stuff. Life like Nabokov’s prose, says John Updike, the only way to be, that is ecstatically: life as life, at life’s very core you find ecstasy."


The faculty felt that Victor’s works were fundamentally musical. They are based on elements and parameters of music itself. His current polystylist music is clearly informed by such a wide spectrum of cross-genre repertoire to which he listens, and his scores are meticulously crafted. Furthermore, the instrumental writing fits the instruments perfectly, and his sense of orchestration across ensembles is thoughtful and sonically appealing.

Justine Shih

From the Introduction to SQUARE ONE, for four-part voice, piano, and string quartet:

"SQUARE ONE comprises five movements, which capture the ups and downs of the tumultuous path that is college, a time of self-discovery. As growth is a turbulent and nonlinear process, the piece is filled with instabilities, the most immediate of which is the number of movements – an odd number, one more than that of a conventional symphony. “Autumn” depicts the season of school year beginnings and fresh starts, and a time of changing colors and uncertainty. The movement is short, at about 50 seconds, intended as a quasi- prelude. Corresponding to the timeline of musical history, the movement utilizes unaccompanied voice – starting from one and adding on additional voices – as a reference to the monophony and later polyphony of early music. The texture grows to three voices but not the conventional four, calling to the instability of the number 3. As an additional allusion to classical practice, the voice leading loosely follows contrapuntal rules of first species counterpoint. The voices move only in oblique or contrary motion, but rather than landing on consonant harmonies, they land on dissonances for the majority of the movement, a sign of the aforementioned instability. The frequent changes in meter and number of measures per phrase (progressing from two-measure phrases to three and four-measure phrases) are additional signs. There is dissonance, but there is also hope, an ambiguous and multifaceted opening to the rest of the piece. The movement closes with a suspended C to dominant chord, left open-ended for the rest of the piece to resolve."


The faculty was deeply impressed by Justine’s copious musical talents. She not only composed her 14 minute, multi-movement nonet for vocal quartet, string quartet, and piano, she also produced this recording of her work, singing all of the vocal parts, playing piano, and playing both of the violin parts. At some points in the recording, Justine is performing seven of the nine different parts that we hear, and on top of that, her studio production is near professional.