When Maya Simpson began her journey at Pomona College, she thought she'd follow the same passion she had in high school: Music and singing. But soon she realized there was a bump in the road.
"I came in as a music and politics double major, but I figured out that I hated music theory," says Maya. She decided to branch out, taking other courses to see what she might like. "I took a history course and I loved it and decided that was the major for me. Then the next semester, I took three history courses and one non-history course,” says Simpson, who is still minoring in politics and music. “Since then, I’ve been enamored of the subject."
One way Simpson has found to continue her exploration of music is by incorporating it into her history research. The summer after her junior year, she completed a Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURP) on Irving Berlin. "I looked at how Jewish musicians on Tin Pan Alley used African-American art forms to further their own assimilation into American culture," says Maya, who is broadening that research to include George Gershwin and Sophie Tucker for her thesis. “I trained in musical theatre in high school and jazz and all that, so it was a great way for me to combine all of my interests."
Outside of classes, most of Simpson’s time is spent on taken up by her involvement in the Pomona College Choir, the a cappella group The Women's Blue and White, and the Pomona Glee Club. She particularly loves a cappella: "It takes up all of my time, but I love it. It’s just part of my campus life." She’s been able to travel to the Pacific Northwest on a tour with the Glee Club and sang for alumni during the 2009 Alumni Weekend. “It’s just such a cool experience because you’re singing to people who are reminiscing about their college years,” says Maya.
Music has also taken the lead in Maya's social life. While she hasn't taken many classes at the other Claremont Colleges, she has friends from other campuses because of her 5C a cappella group. "That’s really allowed me to cross over to the other colleges because I’ve made a lot of friends through them and reached out that way."
The people she’s met at college are a really big part of the Pomona experience for Simpson. "I have different groups of friends who don’t necessarily know each other, but you always have that common Pomona vibe," says Maya. "If people who don’t know each other meet, they can hang out and they can talk to each other. And the level of conversation and excitement about things and the energy of the student body is such a special experience. We want to interact with each other and really become a community, and I think that’s an amazing part of this school that you can’t necessarily get anywhere else."