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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Senior Profile: Nicola Chang

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At Tufts, Nicola Chang found her niche in music. A lifelong percussionist and music enthusiast, Chang has played with a variety of groups during her time on campus, but has spent much of her time in Banging Everything At Tufts (BEATs).

"I've been drumming for three years with them," Chang said. "It [is] the group that has led me to grow as a musician the most here at Tufts."

Chang, a native of Hong Kong, has been drumming since she was six years old. She completed her degree in three years, with majors in economics and international relations, concentrating in economic development, as well as a minor in music.

Along with BEATs, Chang has performed in the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra in New Hampshire and with Tufts' Javanese Gamelan Ensemble. She also works on the Musical Events Technical Staff.

"There are definitely a lot of outlets here at Tufts to play music, and it's almost an equal playing ground, too, in terms of getting involved," she said. "It's not like a conservatory, where everybody has to be of a certain skill set. It's more like, if you're interested, you get to do it."

Chang explained that her performances at Tufts have redefined her musical experiences.

"It's been a refocus to entertainment, rather than playing for myself," Chang said. "When you practice and you do lessons, you're playing for yourself, mainly, but then after a certain point you start being more involved in performance groups ... [where you] start playing for other people."

Chang, who grew up speaking Cantonese, also knows Mandarin. As an international student, she explained that music has served as a social facilitator for her at Tufts.

"Coming in freshman year, I did International Orientation, [so] to a certain extent my social circle was very based on [the] Hong Kong Students Association [and] the Asian-American Center," Chang said. "Then, as I became more involved in music ... I knew more people from music circles."

Having studied international development, Chang is interested in early musical education as a force for good.

"There's a program in Venezuela that's called El Sistema, and it fundamentally gives every kid an instrument," she said. "It keeps them off the streets, it makes them go to band [practice]. Some kids really hate it, but it also increases human capital, social capital, teaches them how to work together [and how] to collaborate ... to make a final product."

Inspired by El Sistema, Chang aspires to implement similar programs in her hometown.

"Eventually, I want to bring this model back home to Hong Kong and also involve some of BEATs in it - have kids play percussion," she said. "You learn so much from doing music ... [like] developing people skills [and] how to work well with people."

As she prepares to leave college, Chang reflected on the positive benefits of having a student community, and urged others to take advantage of this network while they still have time.

"I'll really miss the fact that this is probably the last point in my life when I'm going to be surrounded by people of similar ages and similar responsibilities," she said. "If you asked me to give some advice to anybody, it would be, 'Don't lose sight of the fact that [college] is about people, too.' [I graduated] in three years ... [you] definitely [can] rush things ... [but], at the same time, you rush relationships [and] you rush interactions with people."

While Chang isn't certain about her future plans, she said that music will continue to play an important role in this next chapter of her life, just as it did throughout her college career.

"[I'm] hoping to change things, hoping to touch as many lives as I can through music," she said.