It is not every day that a student from Eagle Point gets accepted to Harvard University. Even less common is the student who attends Harvard before she has graduated from high school. As a Junior at Eagle Point High School, Rachel Gima plays the flute and is the drum major for the marching band. She recently gained acceptance into the Harvard Secondary School Program, and will travel to the east coast this upcoming summer to attend two classes over the seven-week term.
EPHS Band Director, Jeremy Durst, discussed Gima’s personality and what it is like to have her as a student. “Rachel’s one of the top performers in the room, for sure,” Durst said. “She’s very goal-oriented and motivated, and I think that shows up a lot in the band.”
Durst also described Gima’s influence over the other studenst in his band. “She provides that positive role model. She’ll kind of take that leadership role, where she will be helpful to those other kids, and I think they admire what she does.”
Below is a conversation with Gima, in which speaks about being her her goals and how music ties in with those goals.
URI: Congratulations are in order. You qualified for the Harvard summer program right?
URI: Do you know the name of the classes?
Gima: I get to choose. I’m planning on taking a course in biology and women’s studies.
URI: What were the qualifications? What’s the application process like?
Gima: I had to send in a transcript. I had to get a teacher recommendation, and I had to get an administrative recommendation from the principal. And, I had to list my class rank, my GPA. I had to write a few essays. I had to write short essays like ‘What is your favorite book?’ ‘Why is this your favorite book?’ Stuff like that.
URI: What is your favorite book?
Gima: Harry Potter.
URI: I remember you said you want to go to Harvard for medical school. Is that still what you want to do?
Gima: It’s for Undergrad and Med School. I just want to go there period.
URI: How come? Has that always been what you want to do?
Gima: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to go to Harvard pretty much since even before I started kindergarten.
URI: Did you have a relative that went there?
Gima: No. I don’t know how I came up with Harvard. I was little and I was like ‘Oh Mom, I’m going to go to Harvard one day.’ And that’s just been it.
URI: How does music play into all that? Are you going to study music at Harvard?
Gima: I hope so. I want to be a part of the band there.
URI: Do you have any professional aspirations about music? Or, is it just a personal thing?
Gima: It’s pretty much a personal thing. I’d like to be able to be part of a larger symphony. If I have time outside of my career, though, because I think my career’s going to come first.
URI: Will you continue to play music even when you’re a doctor?
URI: Do you think learning and playing music can make you a better doctor?
Gima: It definitely helps with hand-eye coordination, and working different parts of your brain. When you read rhythms in your sight reading you kind of go on impulse, or instinct. And it’s a little like that when you’re a doctor and you’re in an emergency situation, so I think that could definitely help.
URI: What about being a drum major, and learning how to conduct?
Gima: Well, it gives me a position of leadership so I know how to have authority and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and it’s because I say so and I’m in that position. So, it helps me develop my leadership abilities.
URI: When you found out you were accepted, who did you tell first?
Gima: I called my mom, and then I texted my friends.
URI: Why women’s studies?
Gima: Because I want to be an obstetrician, so it kind of ties into that, having knowledge of women and why we act a certain way. And also how we’ve developed in society. It helps to be more comfortable with women in consultations and with them during appointments.
URI: Obviously, not everybody gets accepted to Harvard while they’re still in high school. Do you feel at all like that separates you from your peers?
Gima: I’m not sure. I just know I work as hard as I can, and I try and take every opportunity that comes my way. So, this is one of them.
URI: How long do you spend with your music outside of school?
Gima: Well, my studies always come first. So, if I have something I need to study that’s what I’ll do first. Typically, I’ll spend an hour on homework and then an hour with my music.
URI: What’s your favorite piece of music?
Gima: That’s a good question. Slow would be ‘An American Elegy’ by Frank Ticheli, and then quick would probably be ‘Variations on a Korean Folk Song’ by John
URI: Is there anything that you’re especially nervous about? Or, any serious preparations that you need to make?
Gima: Probably my grades over the summer because those are going to go on the college transcripts. So, I have to make sure I get good grades in those classes.
URI: You’re going to be away from home. Is this the only thing you’re going to do over the summer?
Gima: It’s the only thing. It lasts seven weeks, so that’s pretty much the entire summer. Then I’m going to come back here for Band Camp.
URI: Good luck. I hope it goes well for you.
Gima: Thank you.
Jeremy Durst went on to explain the positive impact a musical education can have upon a youth. “Music and academics— they’re always correlated, and I think Rachel just proves that whole point,” Durst said. “Being able to do a math problem’s one thing. But, being able to play an instrument, look at what’s on the page, analyze it, go back and forth, play with a group of people— all the sudden things in the outside world seem a little easier.”
With both student and teacher separately mentioning the development of leadership skills, and the importance of academic performance, it seems clear that Rachel Gima’s case is one more example in favor of keeping music programs well-funded in public schools.
On top of that, there are organizations like the Texas Medical Center Orchestra in Huston, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra in Boston, and the Philadelphia Doctors’ Chamber Orchestra, in which the participants are largely, or exclusively, those in medical professions. There are many others such as these across the country. This suggests another correlation between people with an interest in music and medicine at the same time. So, be nice to young musicians. One might save your life someday.
By Michael Stephens
Of the Independent