Artistic Changemakers

Samuel Nebyu, BYR ’17, ’19
Strings attached

Samuel Nebyu has been playing violin for nearly two decades—since he was 6 years old—but he still insists there’s always more to be learned.

“You learn everything pretty meticulously,” he says, “piece by piece.”

That’s why, after he finished his undergraduate degree in violin performance from Boyer College of Music and Dance in 2017, he knew he wanted to go straight into the school’s master’s program.

Reflecting on his time at Temple, Nebyu is able to name numerous “dream come true” opportunities—from global performances, to awards, to a full CD.

He humbly credits his success to the guidance of Eduard Schmieder, Boyer’s Laura H. Carnell Professor and violin artistic director of strings.

Schmieder encouraged Nebyu to use his Hungarian and Ethiopian background to his artistic advantage. Today, Nebyu often plays the work of composers of African descent—who have historically been underrepresented in the field—at his performances, and made them the entire focus of his debut album.

“Every time I play music, I need to know that what I am doing is something that has a real impact and goes beyond just playing notes.”

Qiaoyi Shi, TYL ’17
Off to a fine art

Her bright and whimsical pieces catch the eye and just might make you hungry. Qiaoyi Shi is a New York-based printmaker and illustrator whose work often involves food.

“I find mundane events inspiring,” she says. “A trip to the grocery store or even preparing dinner one night can give me an an idea for my next piece.”

In addition to producing prints, which she sells at The Print Center in Philadelphia, Shi also runs a jewelry brand, YingOne Jewelry, with former Temple classmate Yingwan Sun, TYL ’17, and operates YUI Gallery, a risograph printing press and gallery hybrid in New York’s Chinatown.

“Having more than one platform allows me to reach more people.”

YUI has evolved into a “safe space” for the creative expression of its members, many of whom have Chinese heritage. The gallery is a home for not only creating, displaying and viewing work, but also hosting events such as artist talks and critiques.

“I feel the need to share my work, and having more than one platform allows me reach more people.” 

Erin Busch, BYR ’13, ’15
Composing against the grain

I started writing music ... when I was eight years old. As I grew up, I began to notice that the only other people writing music were boys. I started to feel really isolated and I almost applied to Temple for music education instead of composing, but my parents pushed me to apply for what I really loved. 

I was nervous at ... my Temple audition. You have to sight sing and do a keyboard test that you can’t really prepare for.

A gender disparity? ... Uh, yes. There were only about 12 people in the undergraduate program when I was there, but I was the only girl. I talked to one of my professors about it—he told me that they just didn’t get enough applications from women. 

I decided to start ... the Young Women Composers Camp at Temple to help young women feel empowered to write music and consider applying to music composition programs at the college level. Our first year, in 2018, was really incredible. We had 18 girls come from all over the country to Main Campus for a two-week program. 

Right now … I’m pursuing my PhD at UPenn in music composition. A lot of people ask if I am going to move the camp to Penn, but I don’t think so. Temple is the perfect place for it.

Rachel Ignotofsky, TYL ’11
Illustrating her point

Rachel Ignotofsky fell in love with drawing as a child. So, when she landed a job as a greeting card designer with Hallmark during her final year at Temple, it constituted what many would see as the realization of her career hopes. And during the next four years, Ignotofsky found the job was indeed a dream—just not hers.

“It was someone else’s dream job,” she said. “I really wanted to create things with my artwork that talked about subjects that I thought were really important.”

In 2015, Ignotofsky quit, taking the leap to work for herself full-time. On the heels of a U.S. Census report showing a gender gap in STEM fields, she illustrated and wrote Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, an art-powered celebration of the accomplishments of oft-overlooked female scientists.

“As I wrote this book, I realized there are a tremendous amount of women who have contributed to science just as much as Einstein and Tesla, but their names aren’t well-known,” she says. “They became invisible.”

By contrast, Ignotofsky wanted to show young girls: “If you can see it, you can be it.”

The book has become a New York Times Best Seller, and Ignotofsky went on to publish Women in Sports and The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth. Her next book, Women in Art, is due out this fall.

“There’s a great thing that happens when you get kids excited about history and science: They kind of feel like they can teach the teacher,” she says. “It’s that self-esteem you can give a kid that I think really helps them make it in this world.” 

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