On Feb. 13, she turned 22 and sang in a major concert that her choral group had been rehearsing for a month.
But earlier in the week, there were widespread congratulations because this fall she’ll enter the University of Cambridge in England as a 2011 Gates Cambridge Scholar. She is UNCG’s first student to win the award.
Carpenter was notified on Feb. 6, two days after her interviews in New York City. She called her parents, woke up her roommate, and the word got around in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance during the week. She got a round of applause when it was announced at a rehearsal.
A senior from Charlotte, Carpenter will pursue a Master of Music degree in choral studies at the prestigious university, which is the second oldest in the English-speaking world.
“I’m getting used to it, but it’s still a little surreal,” said Carpenter. “I am incredibly excited about this opportunity, and I feel that my being selected to receive such an honor reflects well on the education I have received at UNCG. In my four years of study at UNCG, I have not only come to appreciate the tremendous quality of the music program, I have made close connections with a number of faculty members within the program. My experience with the UNCG music faculty has been wonderful.”
An academic standout, she is expected to graduate with honors in May with majors in voice performance and organ. She also has a concentration in choral conducting, and is currently the assistant conductor of the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale. She is an Ethel Virginia Butler Merit Scholar.
She has already spent time in England. In the spring of 2010, she studied at Keele University where she was a student conductor of the Keele Bach Choir and the Keele Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.
The Gates award gives her a huge step toward her career goals of becoming choirmaster of a church and establishing or maintaining an existing choir school program. Before leaving for Cambridge, she has an extensive performance schedule this summer which includes engagements with the Simon Carrington Singers in Kansas City, Mo., and at the Young Performers Festival in Boston, Mass.
Faculty members who have worked with Carpenter praised her academic and musical skills.
“Margaret is motivated in a way I rarely see in undergraduates and has taken it upon herself to get more out of the degree here than is required,” said Dr. Nancy Walker, Carpenter’s voice teacher and advisor. “She works so independently, and she often brings music to her voice lessons that she has chosen and which she has already learned. Her voice is quite beautiful, but it is her musicality that allows her to communicate in many styles of music and with lovely success.”
Dr. Carole Ott, a conducting faculty member, said, “As a person, Margaret is a joy. Her maturity, intellect and drive make her a natural leader and her enthusiasm is contagious. Her intellectual and musical curiosity are at the level I usually expect of my graduate students. As a conductor, Margaret is readily adaptable, making changes in her gesture to most effectively convey her musical ideas.”
Carpenter is among 30 new U.S. Gates Cambridge Scholars, including three others from North Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and Duke. Although the scholars will study a variety of disciplines, other students come from ranking institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Brown, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. The 30 were whittled down from an initial field of 800 applicants. They will be joined by 60 more Gates Scholars from other parts of the world, and all will study for Master’s or Ph.D. degrees.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship Program was created in 2000 through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim is to set up an international network of scholars and alumni who will have a transformative effect on society. Since 2001, almost 1,000 Gates Scholarships have been awarded to students in more than 90 countries.
More details on the Gates scholarships are at http://www.gatesscholar.org/.
By Steve Gilliam
Photograph by Chris English
Visual of Carpenter in a practice session with Dr. Nancy Walker (Music)