Paul Koenig PO ’14 was one of 20 students nationwide to won the 2013 Beinecke Scholarship, an award of $34,000 for graduate studies. Koenig, a music major, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in music theory or possibly a joint M.A./Ph.D. program.
Jennifer Locke, Assistant Director of Fellowships and Career Advising at the Career Development Office, said that Koenig’s dedication to music and summer research helped give him an edge over other candidates.
“He really made himself stand out through his summer research that he did between his sophomore and junior year,” Locke said. “He had a [Summer Undergraduate Research Program grant], and he worked with professor Eric Lindholm in music on researching Brahms’s Symphony. He produced work that could be revised and published later, and I think that that really made him stand out amongst other juniors.”
Koenig began playing piano at age six and trombone at age nine, but he said music was never his primary interest until later in college.
“At the beginning of sophomore year I committed myself to the sciences and decided to take a break from music for a while to figure out what I really wanted to do,” Koenig said. “I was taking physics and math and ecology, but that was way too much, so I dropped physics and took music theory. That was sort of the turning point.”
“I love the music department and the professors,” Koenig added. “That music theory class was really influential.”
Koenig has also been involved with Pomona for Environmental Activism and Responsibility since his first year, but he said that music takes up a lot of his time.
“It’s the extracurricular that becomes your curriculum,” he said.
Applicants to the Beinecke Scholarship initially have to apply through Pomona College. Locke, religious studies professor Zhiru Ng, and media studies professor Jennifer Friedlander, also the faculty adviser for the scholarship, made up the selection committee. Locke said that nine students applied this year, and the college could only pick one nominee based on a variety of criteria.
“You have to already have an idea of what your graduate plans might be, you have to have already demonstrated strong academic promise in your field and be able to convince people that you’d be a strong graduate student even though you’re just in your fall semester of your junior year,” Locke said.
Locke said that a tricky part of the application is being able to articulate specific future plans.
“You need to propose very specific graduate programs that you could see yourself at after you graduate … at specific universities and what specific degree you would like to get,” Locke said.
Koenig said he is looking into Yale University, McGill University, University of Indiana-Bloomington, the City University of New York, and New York University. He said he is interested in universities rather than conservatories.
“Conservatories tend to focus on performance and composition, so I’m probably not going to one of those, although I’m still interested in composition,” Koenig said. “I think that maybe teaching is what I want to do.”
The Beinecke Scholarship is only available for students wishing to study arts, humanities, or social sciences. Locke said the scholarship winners from Pomona have come from subjects across the board, including media studies and anthropology. Koening is the fourth Beinecke winner at Pomona since 2006.