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A Student Picks Up the Banjo and Hits the Highway


As a new student Jake Meserve Blount '17 couldn't have forseen he would go on to do a research project that induces foot-tapping.

He entered Hamilton thinking he'd major in psychology. As it turned out he spent a summer traveling to music festivals around the East Coast studying  a style of Appalachian old-time music he says is native to Ithaca, N.Y.  A grant from Hamilton funded the project

At Hamilton Blount had discovered old-time music and the banjo, thanks to banjo player and music Professor Lydia Hamessley. Inspired and intrigued, he developed his own course of study in ethnomusicology through the interdisciplinary studies major.

“It seemed natural that my first major fieldwork project would be into a style of music that has influenced me so hugely,” he says. “I’ve also found a few other great research opportunities through Hamilton; I spent the past semester with the Hamilton in New York City program.  I interned in the Department of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and catalogued their Appalachian dulcimer collection and learned to play the dizi (a traditional Chinese bamboo flute) as an independent study.”

Blount says he’s been making music since he was 12 but didn’t get good at playing or studying it until he’d been on campus for a few months. Now he plans to make a career of music in some way. Still, he isn't interested in a pure music school.

“Although there are other schools that have established programs in my field, no other school offered me the total academic self-determination that Hamilton does, so I never seriously considered transferring,” he says.

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