After studying at Oxford for almost a year, Lucas Jonathan Wang Zheng ’23 is returning to Hamilton with a newfound love for research and a nearly completed Emerson project that focuses on the affordability of musical education among middle-class, late Victorian-era English women. He hopes that his findings will help fill the gap in economic and social historical musicology.

“Musicology is an incredibly interdisciplinary field with many different facets for research,” Wang Zheng said. “But the economic and social history side to it has been sidelined by the more popular and equally important topics of gender and race.”                                                                                            

Lucas Wang-Zheng '23
Lucas Wang Zheng '23

Wang Zheng’s initial inspiration for this project, titled Mothers and Sisters: Musical Women in Their Musical Families, comes from his own family, specifically his mother. Since introducing him to the piano at the age of 4, she has continued to support and encourage his pursuit of musical passions. It is this contribution to his own musical journey that inspired him to more broadly study women’s contribution to music. Taking advantage of his time in England, he worked with advisor Lydia Hamessley, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Music, to focus his research on musical education in late-Victorian England. He’s found primary sources in the Royal College of Music archive.

The Royal College of Music in London was founded in 1882 with two different student bodies: the scholars, a selective group of students who attended the college for free, and fee-paying students. Using student records of fee-paying students enrolled between 1883 and 1885, Wang Zheng collected quantitative data on affordability among middle-class women. Though it has been difficult to find information on wages, given the historical focus on the working class as opposed to the middle class, Wang Zheng has discovered something else to supplement his research: the professions of female students’ fathers. This information will help define the women’s socioeconomic class, offering a clear look into the college’s affordability.

Lucas Jonathan Wang Zheng ’23

Major: Music
Hometown: Shanghai, China
High School: Shanghai High School International Division

“The nature of this project is pretty paradoxical because on the one hand, data and some simple calculations are involved, but on the other hand, we need some historical imagination to make use of this data and fill in the gaps where data fails.”

Wang Zheng plans to finish his research in mid-September and eventually share his findings through a presentation and an academic paper. However, his interest in musicology will not end there. 

Research at Hamilton

Through independent projects, the Senior Program, research with faculty members, and summer internships, Hamilton provides many opportunities for students to engage in significant research.

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