Shay Collins: 'Learning how to dance is enhancing how I think about and perform music'

Shay Collins


Averill Park, NY

Why did you choose Cornell?

I had no idea what I wanted to study when I applied to colleges. I was interested in a ton of different subjects — mathematics, music, art history, economics — and I just couldn't pick one thing. As such, Cornell and, specifically, the College of Arts & Sciences, was the perfect fit for me. I have been able to study in a large variety of departments, from anthropology to comparative literature to feminist, gender and sexuality studies, all while diving deep into my major and minor.

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

I'm really proud of my experience at the Cornell Daily Sun. I've been writing for the arts & entertainment section since my first month on campus and I've had the opportunity to cover concerts, gallery openings and far more albums than I could have imagined. During my sophomore and junior years, I also served as the arts & entertainment section's co-editor with my close friend Troy. Ithaca has a vibrant and active arts community, and being able to follow it so closely both as a writer and editor gave me a whole new perspective on Ithaca.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

During my time at Cornell, I discovered that I have a passion for dance. As part of performing in the Music Improvisation Ensemble, I got to collaborate with dancers as a musician. The more that I worked with dancers, the more that I realized that I actually wanted to be on the other side of the collaboration, and it spurred me to start learning about dance. Right now, I'm enrolled in a modern dance course and loving every minute of it. Learning how to dance is enhancing how I think about and perform music, and having such a physical course adds another dimension to my course load this semester.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

I've never been able to focus on just one thing academically. I've always been interested in a lot of different subjects, and about how different subjects intersect. For example, my research focuses on music history and how it's influenced by cultural attitudes towards race, gender and sexuality. As a liberal arts student, I took many of my favorite classes outside of my major, and they greatly expanded how I saw my academics and the wider world.

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 Shay Collins