Performing arts options tip scales in RIT’s favor

Scott Hamilton

Logan Mui, center, a second-year computer science major, says being part of Eight Beat Measure is a blessing. Eight Beat Measure is one of 44 student clubs that provides performing arts opportunities for students.

A month into her first semester, Julia Vieira Reis was invited to perform in downtown Rochester during the city’s Fringe Festival with The Jive, an RIT jazz combo that she had joined.

Vieira Reis is a first-year industrial and systems engineering major from Manchester, Conn. The performing opportunities on campus were a big reason she applied to RIT.

“I’ve always wanted to go into engineering, but music was also a high priority for me,” she said. “I’m definitely not disappointed with all the opportunities here. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms.”

Vieira Reis was one of 515 incoming students this academic year who received a performing arts scholarship, which were created to enable musicians, dancers, actors, and even students with experience in technical theater to continue to pursue their passion for performance while at RIT. To date, some 1,800 students have received scholarships in the five years they have been available.

Vieira Reis has been playing double bass for nearly 10 years. “I was 8 or 9 years old, and no one else was playing the double bass. It was kind of intimidating when your instrument is taller than you.”

Her bass is made of spruce, with ebony on the fingerboard. She named it Victoria and has a “bass boogey,” a set of wheels that lets her escort Victoria easily around campus.

She was classically trained and began to explore jazz in high school. She attended the prestigious Litchfield Music Camp during her summers and joined community symphonies near her home.

“Music became more than a hobby for me; it is a large passion in my life,” she said. “I was active with robotics at school, but I would make time for jazz jams and meet a lot of local cats there.”

RIT caught her eye for its excellence in engineering, robotics, and the fact there are many opportunities for her to continue playing jazz on and off campus. RIT President David Munson wants RIT to be the leading school in the country for performing arts non-majors.

The opening of the SHED last fall offers more practice space and venues, and a 750-seat music performance theater is being built, with an opening planned for 2025.

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the College of Liberal Arts and its School of Performing Arts offer private lessons, academic and creative courses, productions, and ensembles to join. There are also 44 student clubs that provide opportunities for students to dance, sing, play an instrument, engage in theater, do improv, and more.

Within two weeks of coming to RIT, Logan Mui, a second-year computer science major from Smithtown, N.Y., joined Eight Beat Measure, one of seven a cappella groups.

He sang in a choir in his middle school, but that interest waned in high school.

When he arrived at RIT, he saw fliers announcing auditions for a cappella groups. “I thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’ Coming back to that now, singing and performing with other people that want to do it just as badly as you do, it’s amazing. It’s a blessing.”

Mui rehearses four times a week with the group. What does he get in return for his hard work?

“I’m normally very happy, especially come performance time,” he said. “It’s like, we made this. We all sound great. It’s just such a beautiful thing.”

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