By ALLISON TOVEY
For some people, music is just something they enjoy. For others, it is something that becomes a part of them. Such is the case for UMW senior Abby Steinberg.
“Ever since I was really little, I’ve just had this connection to music,” said Steinberg, a music major in the education program. “I’ve always found it really difficult to express myself through words and so music was a way that I could express what I was feeling without needing to put it to words.”
Beginning her foray into playing instruments at a young age, Steinberg’s grandfather taught her how to play guitar when she was in the second grade. From there, her passion for music grew.
“You get into this mode when you’re listening to music, well at least I do, where all the stuff that you’re worried about, the stuff you struggle with, the times that you don’t feel good enough, it all just kind of disappears. I’m just in this zone and I feel like it’s what I was created for,” said Steinberg. In addition to the guitar, Steinberg plays the ukulele, the piano, and sings in two vocal ensembles on campus.
As a primarily self-taught musician, Steinberg’s entry into the UMW music program was daunting at first.
“I came into the music program knowing very little about music. Once I started the music program, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I didn’t know I needed to know, that everyone around me already knew,” Steinberg said. “But, through the years, I have just been so blown away by the passion and the ability of the professors in the music department. They are so willing to explain things in a way that makes sense to me. Not only that, but they have managed to somehow teach in a way that makes me constantly want to know more and I think that is really powerful.”
Music education is a topic close to Steinberg’s heart as she studies to become an elementary school music teacher. “I would love to be able to inspire kids in the way that I was inspired as a kid with music,” Steinberg said.
It was through Steinberg’s relationship with her grandfather growing up that she developed her relationship with music.
“He would just play some music for me, whether it was a Bob Dylan song or he would just play guitar for me, and the moment the music started, all of that fear would wash away. We had this mutual understanding of ‘wow, this is beautiful, this is art’,” said Steinberg. “I think that was the first time that I realized that music has a deep impact on me. I would say that moment- he just turned on the music and I wasn’t anxious anymore, I just felt okay. I just felt like I understood this deeper meaning or something, even as a kid. I just knew there was so much more to life than this, just because the music was playing.”
Bob Dylan continues to be a source of inspiration in Steinberg’s music: “He wasn’t afraid to go against the grain and I think I try to put that into my music,” she said. She also cites Sufjan Stevens and Debussy as influencers for her own music. However, the more she studied music in an academic setting, the more she began to take interest in all genres of music.
“I think learning about music in classes here has given me more of an appreciation for it. Before school started, I was afraid that majoring in music would make me not like it or would make it too technical and it would lose its beauty, but it actually opened my eyes to how incredible it is, how much effort it takes to be a good musician, and to write pieces like Mozart and Bach did,” Steinberg said. “If anything, I have a deeper appreciation for music than I ever have and I’m definitely more open to music. I used to be a strictly folk/indie kind of girl and now I’ll listen to trap, R&B, country a little bit, anything.”
As Steinberg prepares to become a music educator herself, she reflects on the music department and what she’s learned from her professors at UMW. She said, “It’s super easy to over-teach a concept and make it not desirable anymore, to want to use whatever skill they’re training you in, but they’ve made it so that they teach me about something really random like post-tonal music theory, and I am actually inspired by it and I actually want to know more. I come into class everyday excited. I’ve loved being a music major. I love all of the professors in the department, they’re incredible, they’re amazing musicians, they’re just so kind and patient. I’ve just absolutely loved learning from them.”
Video of Abby playing the piano.