Alec Norkey ’13

After graduating in 2013 with degrees in chemistry and musical performance, Alec Norkey attended Bowling Green State University where he earned his master’s degree in music, focusing on ethnomusicology and violin performance. From 2017–2019, Alec attended the Boston Conservatory at Berklee where he received his graduate performance diploma in classical contemporary music performance. Currently, he is working on his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at University of California, Los Angeles. Alec recommends that current Hope students, “Take seriously the ideas and insights that a liberal arts education can provide. Embracing a breadth of thought can help prepare for times of struggle and uncertainty that so many face in modern times.” Alec is a lifelong learner who generously shares his passion for music with others.

To you, what makes Hope special?
To me, Hope is defined by its leadership, administration, faculty and students, so I expect the college will develop and change over time. Despite this change, I believe that Hope’s intention is to realize good will towards all of its students, Christian or otherwise. I think that this intention, combined with the grace of humility, openness to difference and compassion for suffering, potentializes Hope as a space for fortitude, critique and progress.

What is your current job title?
I’m currently a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology, so much of my work involves researching and teaching about music, as well as the ways in which music exists in the world in relation to people, within and as culture. In essence, this work comprises aspects of both the humanities and social sciences. It is about documenting the stories of humanity’s relation to music, as well as the material and social conditions which sustain musical beliefs and practices.

What do you love about your chosen career?
As a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology, I feel that I’m incredibly lucky to pursue the study of music in so many different ways. Since the field of ethnomusicology is quite interdisciplinary, I am able to seriously pursue my interests regarding not only music and performance, but also issues of culture, society, pedagogy, religion and social justice (just to name a few). This disciplinary emphasis on multiculturalism provides an academic environment where I’m constantly learning new things. (As a result, I’m rarely ever bored.) Finally, many aspects of my work are self-led, meaning that I have a little bit more control over what I get to focus on in my research and teaching. This dimension of independence can actually be the most challenging aspect in certain respects, but I find it to be incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give to a current Hope student?
I feel that the role of college has dramatically shifted since 2013. So many students today seem to look to college as a path towards social mobility (i.e. getting a good job). While this general sentiment is understandable, I would advise students of today to think about their future careers and professionalization as only one part of what it means to be educated. To this end, I would advise current Hope students to both concentrate on their major or specialization and also take seriously the ideas and insights that a liberal arts education can provide. Embracing a breadth of thought can help prepare for times of struggle and uncertainty that so many face in modern times. Such issues include not only economic prospects, but also the environment, war, religion, political extremism, violence or oppression, and technology, to name a few. The cultivation of a well-rounded individual is vital to the maintenance of organized life and the pursuit of peace.

Which class would you retake if you could? Why?
There were so many great classes, I don’t think I could choose just one. To make this question simpler for myself, I think one non-major class I would retake would be the Intro to Global Politics. This course really broadened my horizons, both in terms of culture but also how that culture affects the social conditions of a nation-state (and how those conditions, in turn, affect culture). Of course, the ways in which people live affect their thoughts about and experiences of music. I consider this class as a prelude to my interest in ethnomusicology (and I didn’t even know it.)

Hope College is proud to honor Alec Norkey ’13 with the 2023 10 Under 10 Award. The 10 Under 10 Award honors emerging leaders who are making significant contributions by living out their callings; engaging in the local and global community through professional and/or volunteer involvement; and using their education to think about important issues with wisdom and clarity. Award recipients also communicate effectively to bridge boundaries that divide human communities and act as agents of hope living faithfully into their vocations. Designed for alumni who are within 10 years of graduation, these awards are presented by the Hope College Alumni Association. Make a nomination today.

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