St. Olaf was “really my only option ever,” says John Nguyen, who was born in Northfield to parents who had met at the college. He also spent his first six summers living at St. Olaf while his mom and dad worked for the college’s TRIO program. “My aunts went there, too, and now my sister is a freshman here — it’s pretty much the only school I ever looked at. It’s a family affair.”
That said, it was also a perfect fit for the Crystal, Minn., senior, who “knew I wanted to do something with music.” Along with taking vocal music education classes, Nguyen has sung for three years in the Chapel Choir, serves as disc jockey for a weekly college radio show, and runs the radio station’s music production studio.
Indeed, he isn’t certain if he will pursue a career in music education or production, or possibly combine the two. “I know I’ll teach somewhere,” he says. “whether it’s at a school or offering private lessons. I’ve done a lot of that already.” Along with his vocal chops, Nguyen plays piano, guitar, bass, and ukulele.
After graduation, one of his first steps will be to apply for an online master’s program in music production through Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
Meanwhile, as he looks forward to his final semester — when he’ll do student teaching in the Twin Cities — he’s trying to balance his educational and musical commitments with jobs at the IT help desk, as an assistant to a retired St. Olaf professor, and as the remote website manager for several Twin Cities accounting firms.
Nguyen will take with him memories of a college that is “a special community,” and at which he made friends with so many different interests and majors. He will also long remember an interim class he took in music and social justice, which taught him, he says, an important lesson: “That music can be a means for social change.”