Inaugural Claremont Colleges Music Award Goes to Harvey Mudd Student

The first Paul R. Bishop Memorial Award in Choral and Vocal Music at the Claremont Colleges goes to Harvey Mudd College mathematics major Marissa Gee ’18. The award recognizes an outstanding student participating in the choirs of the Joint Music Program of Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Scripps colleges and in voice lessons in the Scripps College Music Department.

Paul Bishop served as the staff performance accompanist for the Scripps College music department and the Joint Music Program of Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Scripps colleges from 1975 until his death in June 2017. A new award, the Paul R. Bishop Memorial Award in Choral and Vocal Music, commemorates his legacy with the goal of celebrating the exemplary work of choral and vocal music students in the Joint Music Program.

Gee comes from a family of musicians—her grandfather was a music teacher, her mother and grandmother singers—and has progressed as a musician steadily throughout her college career. “She has sung in choirs for four years and has been one of the most enthusiastic singers in the vocal and choral areas,” says Charles W. Kamm, associate professor of music and director of choirs for the Joint Music Program.

Marissa Gee '18 with Claremont Colleges Concert ChoirA classical singer and soprano, Gee most enjoys singing art songs, especially French, German and contemporary English. Of her performances with the choir and orchestra, she fondly remembers her first piece, the Dona Nobis Pacem cantata, by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

“That piece has stayed with me since my first year, with its powerful message about the impact of war,” she says. “There is nothing like performing with an orchestra, it is always exciting and impactful.

This semester, Gee performed with The HMC American Gamelan. In March, she sang in a masterclass with Cambodian composer Bosba Panh, and in February, she sang in a dance production with the Tero Saarinen Dance Company of Finland, one of her most memorable experiences, she says. “Tero has a great attitude toward dance and music in general, and I learned a lot about physicality during a performance, and being present in the moment.”

Gee also excels in the classroom. For her senior theses, she is doing research on mathematical models for Type 1 diabetes with Lisette de Pillis, Norman F. Sprague Jr. Professor of Life Sciences, professor of mathematics and department chair. Gee will do research this summer in big data with mathematics Professor Weiqing Gu. In addition to her musical activities, Gee is co-president of Harvey Mudd’s Women in Math Club and is a math tutor for the Academic Excellence program, a tutor for Homework Hotline and a grader/tutor for the Department of Mathematics, which awarded her the Giovanni Borrelli Mathematics Prize, presented to promising scholars of the mathematical sciences.

Upon graduation, Gee intends to continue her math education at Cornell University, where she will pursue a PhD in applied math. She hopes to use mathematics as a tool for research in the areas of politics and policy analysis. She looks forward to joining a choir during graduate school, and the Bishop Award will allow her to continue taking voice lessons.

In his 42 years at the Colleges, Bishop played for over 3,000 students in countless lessons, recitals and concerts, so he was able to build strong connections. Gee has fond memories of Bishop, who accompanied many of her performances.

“Paul would always help with pronunciation of French and German, and knew anecdotes or trivia about many of the songs and composers I studied,” says Gee. “During my first performance at a voice recital, I was extremely nervous but before the performance, Paul was as calm and collected as ever. After we got off stage though, he laughed a little and gave me a big hug. He said that he had been nervous too, but that I had done great. His gesture and encouragement meant so much to me at the time, and helped me deal with nervousness during performances since then. He truly was an irreplaceable presence in the music department and will be greatly missed.”

Current vocal and choral music students participating in Scripps’ voice lessons and the Joint Music Program choirs are eligible for the Paul R. Bishop Memorial Award.

“The music department’s hope is that students will use the award to further their music education,” says Kamm. “This award allows students to take additional voice lessons, participate in a summer music program, purchase music scores or put it toward a graduate program in the field.”