200 Days in the Life of the College

Saturday, December 4

A singer of two songs finds the key to it all

By Olivia Wolfgang-Smith ’11

“When I came here, I had never sung opera,” Ileana Becerra ’11 says with a laugh. “I signed up for voice lessons in order to practice. I wanted to force myself to rehearse.”

Becerra hails from Venice, Calif., and although a singer from age 4 — “music was in the family,” she says, with her mother and uncles all playing musical instruments — she branched out during her first year at Hamilton with private lessons in guitar, piano and voice as well as music and theatre classes. “A lot of people come to Hamilton to figure out what to do,” she explains. “I really wanted that freedom.”

Her explorations have paid off. In addition to performing frequently on campus, Becerra has taken part in Hamilton productions that traveled to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland — her first trip overseas — and to New York City this weekend.

Becerra juggles her artistic pursuits with the rigorous requirements of a major in physics, which she has supplemented with prestigious summer research under the tutelage of Assistant Professor of Physics Natalia Connolly. Becerra casts her passions for physics and the arts as intertwined and mutually beneficial. “Physics is very academic,” she says. “Music is my release. Each is giving me another window, another path.”

Becerra plans to pursue a career in music after graduation but eventually to apply for graduate study in engineering. She stresses the role Hamilton has played in fostering her talents and interests in both fields, particularly the College’s encouragement of cross-disciplinary exploration. “It wasn’t in my key,” she says, laughing, of the piece she performed last spring in Edinburgh, “but I loved singing the song.”