Staying in Tune with Musical Passions at Duke

Duke Students
3 min readApr 6, 2023


By Tulio Sasaya

Tulio playing the viola with 3 other students

For many students, the transition to college is both an exciting and daunting task, with new experiences and challenges to be uncovered in this unfamiliar setting. There are new friends to be made, classes to attend, all-nighters to pull, and a host of clubs and extracurricular activities to explore. However, for those with a passion that has been a central part of their lives prior to college, the prospect of losing that talent can be a major source of anxiety.

The fear of losing a talent or skill is a common yet not heavily discussed topic that arises because of the unique circumstances college life presents — especially with the pressure to specialize in a major or job to stay ahead. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, dancing, or participating in a sport, the thought of putting down something that has been a part of one’s identity for so long can feel overwhelming.

Before coming to Duke, I feared losing my talent for the viola. After being convinced to play the viola in 6th grade because it was “not as ear impairing as the violin,” it has since become a part of my identity. I enjoyed being a part of an orchestra and performing on stage — growing a genuine appreciation for the art. Although I am an intended Computer Science major, an important aspect I considered during my college search was the availability of a music program, which Duke luckily offered. Although I am no prodigy or master violist, I still wanted to continue playing the viola for the sake of it. Simply, the thought of wasting all those years of practice haunted me.

An integral part of what helped me on this journey was joining Duke University’s chamber music program. More specifically, I was part of a string quartet. The quartet allowed me to connect with other musicians and continue playing the viola. It was also a perfect fit for my busy schedule, as rehearsal times were flexible and based on our availability. Soon rehearsals and performances became the highlight of my week. Even outside of practice, our quartet would hang out together after rehearsal to grab lunch at WU or even attend concerts at Baldwin.

Tulio and his music teacher standing side by side

The thought of being unable to play as well in college also unsettled me. As a result, I took it upon myself to take private lessons at Duke. Although I met with the professor weekly, the lesson schedule itself was incredibly flexible. Whenever I felt sick or had midterms to study for, postponing lessons was always an option.

Tulio and 3 other students sitting around a table

Outside of practicing, performance opportunities were also abundant as part of a string quartet and viola studio. Toward the end of the fall semester, my quartet performed the Mendelssohn String Quartet №6 in F Minor at Baldwin — broadcasted live on Duke Music’s YouTube channel. I also participated in both viola and string quartet masterclasses and even had an end-of-the-year recital where I performed Hindemith’s Trauermusik. Although it was challenging to keep up with practice, I tried to balance my schedule to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed.

It’s important to remember that college is a time of exploration and growth. Whether it’s joining a music program, signing up for a yoga class, or trying something entirely new, there are many ways to stay connected to your passions and continue to grow in college.

Tulio is a freshman and a first-year @Dukestudents intern. He enjoys playing table tennis with friends, skating around campus, and taking naps in Perkins Library. In his spare time, he posts college vlogs and skating videos on social media.



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