Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interview with Settlement alum and Pulitzer winner Quiara Hudes

Our Fall newsletter is in homes and at all the branches (and on our website, too) with stories of how our students, faculty, staff and donors are making an impact in the practice rooms, classrooms and the outside world. We included an item on a major accomplishment by a Settlement alum: Quiara Alegria Hudes winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play "Water by the Spoonful." 

Quiara Alegria Hudes, Settlement alum and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
We were very excited to hear of another Settlement alum going on to great things in life, not just in music. We caught another interview, by 215 magazine, that reveals more of her life as a playwright, but we wanted to know more about her time studying here and on the role music plays in her life. She filled us in on that and much more.
Q: When did you first begin studying music? What led you to start in the first place, and what led you study at Settlement?

QH: I was family-trained and self-trained. My aunt and uncle were musicians and exposed me to the widest range of excellent music imaginable: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Etta James, Steel Pulse, Bach solo cello... I had absorbed all that by the time I reached ten years old. To me, music was an endless world of sound and possibility. There were no boundaries. I took my first formal piano lesson in the eighth grade and found my way to Settlement by the ninth grade.

Q: When did you first move from writing music to writing plays? How are the two related?

QH: Music and literacy go hand in hand. My musical studies taught me concentration, listening, and the practice of silence. Those skills are important as a writer as well.

Q: What impact do you feel music and music education have in other areas of the arts? What about in areas outside of the arts?

QH: Since I didn't begin my formal music education until eighth grade, I was always behind the curve in terms of classical chops. I was never going to be a world-class concert pianist. That being said, every moment of my music education made me a better student, independent thinker, and citizen. Practicing rigorously every day taught me to motivate myself and structure my time. Getting better day by day, scale by scale, gave me a great deal of confidence, and also made me realize the connection between hard work and improvement. 

I have never had the illusion that talent or dreaming would earn me much. I knew those were starting lines for a life spent working hard and accomplishing goals. I savor the work ethic that music lessons instilled in me, in part because I learned how incredibly fun it can be to get better at something, step by step, and to use my creativity rigorously.

Q: What role does music play in your life and work now? Do you still write music or practice piano?

QH: I am not a musician now. I am a music lover, though. It's important for parents to believe in the value of musical training as a stepping stone to any kind of life. Don't send your kid to violin lessons just so they can play in the Philharmonic when they grow up; send them to violin lessons for all the pathways it may open them to.

Q: What impact has the Pulitzer had on your writing and your career?

QH: We are yet to see. Today I spent the day writing. I made my current project a little better. I had a few new ideas. That's what I'll do tomorrow as well.

Q: Any other thoughts or memories of your time at Settlement?

QH: I took piano with [Ann Stookey and Joseph W. Waz, Jr. Distinguished Faculty Chair] Dolly Krasnopolsky. She had nothing but the highest standards for me and would not accept if I had not worked up to my potential. It was tough love. She always challenged me. She banged my fingers into those keys, and told me to imagine every finger was a different member of the orchestra. She changed my life.

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