If it’s an activity on the UT Knoxville campus, chances are senior music major Claire Boling has done it. “Starting my freshman year, I threw myself into anything I could get my hands on,” Boling says.
She participated in UT’s concert choir and chamber singers, but realized she needed to balance her musical passion with other ventures. “I got involved with an SGA [Student Government Association] campaign, as well as UT Ambassador Scholars,” Boling says. “These were two experiences that changed the course of my college career, because it was here that I met my very best friends.”
Among Boling’s other activities, she has participated in Student Senate; a social sorority; Sigma Alpha Iota, the women’s music fraternity; the opera theater; and the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Student Advisory Council. Outside of her co-curricular activities, Boling loves to read, watch football, and play piano.
While juggling all of these activities, she also manages to excel in her music major. “The music program is not for the faint of heart!” Boling says. Most undergraduate students take four or five classes per semester, she explains, but “music students take at least nine. Some of these are performance-based, like band and opera, therefore students only receive an hour’s worth of credit. This makes graduating in four years a big challenge.
“I was told when entered the program that if you are deciding between music and another career choice, choose the other. Music students must be dedicated for the hours we put in.”
But Boling is nothing if not dedicated to her music. She began singing in church choirs at age 3, and in fourth grade she began as a member of the Nashville Children’s Choir. Also, since first grade she has participated in musicals, averaging at least one production a year. Real credit for her love of music goes to her eighth- and ninth-grade music teacher, though. “She saw something special in me and invested,” Boling says. “She gave me free voice lessons, saying that it would pay off in the long run. She was my mentor and one of my best friends.”
Unfortunately, her mentor moved away from Middle Tennessee, and then Boling’s family also relocated from Brentwood to Knoxville before her senior year of high school. “This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me,” Boling says, “as I began taking voice lessons at UT and was given more opportunities to perform around Knoxville.”
Boling says some of her most cherished—and comical—memories are of various musical performances of which she has been a part: “My first kiss was on stage; an entire set has fallen on me; I’ve had to improvise an entire scene due to a mistake with the props; I’ve died onstage; I’ve fallen off the stage—you get the idea!”
Performing has been a major part of her life, and Boling has no intention of changing that anytime soon. “I’ve been accepted to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York,” she says. “I plan to get my master’s in music and proceed to singing professionally. Opera is my passion, and I plan to pursue it.”
Boling says UT Knoxville has made those goals possible for her: “UT has given me real-life experience that goes beyond anything I could have ever learned inside a classroom. Through student organizations and my teachers, I have been equipped with the knowledge I need to move ahead.”