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Grad Focus

Excellence in the Arts Supports Dream of Service

Academic excellence is not the only force driving Baylor students to achieve their dreams. A defining characteristic of Baylor students is the desire to use their quality education to serve others.

Gwendolyn Matias-Ryan is a first-year graduate student in viola performance, studying under Dr. Kathryn Steely. Throughout the course of Gwendolyn's first semester, Dr. Steely encouraged her to participate in several competitions.

"It's about coming out of whatever experience a better musician. And if you accomplish that, you've done what you're supposed to do," says Gwendolyn about winning the Mid-Texas Symphony's Young Artist Competition.

Gwendolyn was one of three finalists. For Gwendolyn, the competition was not about winning but improving herself. Already satisfied with the accomplishment of becoming a finalist and happy with her own growth as a musician, she went into her final performance relaxed.

"I wasn't thinking about placing. I was thinking about, at that point, really just enjoying my own performance," says Gwendolyn.

Gwendolyn's hard work and positive attitude paid off. Her winning performance of the 1st movement of Bartók's Concerto provided her with a $1,000 contract and an invitation to play as a guest artist for the symphony orchestra.

Though Gwendolyn is a natural at blessing others with her music on stage, her true passion is using her talent to serve others.

After completing her undergraduate work at Baylor, Gwendolyn spent a year in Oaxaca, Mexico. In Oaxaca, she had the opportunity to teach viola for the youth orchestra of Oaxaca State through the Esperanza Azteca program.

"When I was there, I realized that I have a goal of having my own high-level music program in Oaxaca and to provide quality viola and violin education. But I want to be very well-prepared to be able to do that, and I want to provide it to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it," says Gwendolyn.

Gwendolyn wants to have the best education possible so that she can then offer the best to her future students. So she chose to return to Baylor and work toward a master's in viola performance.

"I want to use my own training of quality level education, pedagogy, and music. I want to expect the best of my students and my students to expect the best of me. To do, that I need to come back and study," explains Gwendolyn.

At Baylor Gwendolyn continues to serve as an academic mentor to undergraduate students. She is a role a model of service and dedication, helping students discover their own paths and dreams just as she was able to discern her own.

After she completes her masters at Baylor, Gwendolyn plans on earning her artists diploma at the University of Michigan so she can even further enable herself to serve underprivileged youth in Oaxaca.

As Gwendolyn continues to refine her talents and serve others, Baylor is happy to be a part of her dream.