Graduate Music Society Socializes While Staying Distant

A man wearing a hat sits at a Macbook computer in a brightly lit room

Gone are the days of running into friends in the Goodspeed third floor office and catching up over Medici catering following a Friday colloquium. The University’s announcement to move to distance learning for spring quarter indicated that there would be changes to the way that we interact—academically and socially.

On campus, graduate students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of interdisciplinary workshops, as well as a number of social events and organizations sponsored by UChicagoGRAD, departments across campus, and the Graduate Music Society (GMS).

A dedicated group of students is elected to the GMS board each year to help support graduate students’ interests, both academic and personal. The GMS board regularly schedules a variety of social events throughout the year including picnics at Promontory Point, cocktail hours hosted at student homes, concert outings, and game nights. With the stay-at-home order in place, board members Nina Narayanan, Natalie Farrell, Yuting Tan, and Jacob Secor immediately started planning digital events to bring students together.

Twice weekly they host an informal get together on Zoom—a coffee hour on Thursday mornings and a happy hour on Sunday evenings. The group is planning a virtual salon performance event in May for students to share skills or show off their hobbies.

Even during normal circumstances, when members of the department are able to see each other and catch up in class, at colloquium, and around the department, GMS events have always felt like an important way of connecting as people rather than just as scholars, said Narayan, GMS President. “With so many of our opportunities to engage face-to-face disappearing, with many of us living in isolation, and with the added stress and anxiety of our current circumstances, it feels more important than ever to create a sense of community and solidarity. Our biweekly get-togethers have been a really wonderful way to stay connected - we talk about classes, share cocktail recipes, meet each others' families and pets, and offer advice to incoming students; it's a really important moment of togetherness and camaraderie that I hope is helping people through this difficult moment.”

GMS is also holding a digital recipe swap, as many of the music students are also talented in the kitchen. Recipes and photos of students’ creations will be compiled, shared, and voted on in a friendly competition at the end of the quarter. Ethnomusicology Ph.D. candidate Jon Bullock shared a citrus curd recipe that he said is “so delicious on pound cake (or in between cake layers), yogurt, pancakes, ice cream, or even just a spoon.”

Citrus Curd


1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
citrus zest (just use the zest from whatever fruit you're using)
1/2 cup citrus juice (plus 2 tbsp. lemon juice if you're using fruit other than lemons)
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, diced


  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together the egg and egg yolks until combined. As you whisk, add the sugar, citrus zest, and citrus juice.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 8-10 minutes—I usually pull it off the heat just as soon as it starts to bubble).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, one or two pieces at a time.
  4. Strain into a bowl (this helps remove the zest and any eggy bits, making the end product velvety smooth), cover with plastic wrap, and chill.