Special Jacobs program lets IU student study music and biology

Ask Zionsville freshman Vanessa Gehring what she’s studying here at IU Bloomington, and you might just do a double-take.

IU student Vanessa Gehring, interning at IUPUI's Glick Eye Institute last year.

IU student Vanessa Gehring, interning at IUPUI’s Glick Eye Institute last year.

She’s a voice major in the Jacobs School of Music, but is participating in a special program that lets her simultaneously seek a degree in music and biology — a combination that can surprise those of us who are certain we’re either left-brained or right-brained. (Me? I love words of all sorts, but barely limped through pre-calculus in high school, much to the chagrin of my math teacher dad.)

But Gehring — who has taken voice lessons since she was in sixth grade, and spent last summer interning at IUPUI’s Glick Eye Institute, studying the genetics behind retinoblastoma in young children in an effort to help determine a cure — said she can’t imagine life any other way.

“The Jacobs School has a specific degree program that’s a bachelor’s in music and an outside field, and you can pick your outside field,” she said. “For me, when I was in high school and started thinking about college, I knew music was something I didn’t want to give up because I love it so much. … But when I was in the sixth grade, we visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and there was this genetics exhibit with cloned mice. And it just clicked. I love it too. I’m not just studying biology in case music doesn’t work out — it’s because I want to.”

Vanessa Gehring

Gehring played Kitty Verdun in Park Tudor High School’s 2013 spring production of the musical “Where’s Charley?”

A soprano, Gehring is studying under Marietta Simpson at the Jacobs School. While she enjoyed earlier forays in musical theater, she now enjoys singing opera and classical music.

“If music opens a door for me, I’d like to try and get my masters and perform wherever they’ll have me,” she said. “But biology-wise, if that’s the door that opens for me, I’d like to try and go for my PhD, or at least go as far as I can, and do research. But if that happened, I would always do music on the side. There’s no way, once you’ve truly experienced music that you can ever give it up.”

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