A Graduate Student's Guide to Harmonizing Academia and Art

By Sathvik Iyengar, Ph.D. fellow in Materials Science and NanoEngineering

Student playing the violin.

As a graduate student immersed in academia, it's easy to forget the enriching influence that music and the arts can bring to our lives. In Houston, a city with a vibrant cultural scene, there are numerous avenues to indulge in artistic pursuits. The opportunities are even more abundant at Rice University, nestled in the Museum District. In this blog post, we'll explore six ways to seamlessly fit music and arts into your graduate student life, with a personalized touch on my experiences.

1. Explore the Museum District: Where Academia Meets Art

Houston's Museum District offers a haven for art lovers with its array of museums and cultural institutions. Take advantage of your proximity to these cultural gems. Spend a weekend afternoon exploring the exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts or the Contemporary Arts Museum. Many museums also host events and performances that can add a cultural flair to your academic routine.

2. Attend Opera Performances: An Operatic Extravaganza

Houston boasts a vibrant opera scene. On and off the Rice University campus, various opera performances showcase the intersection of music and drama. Attend a concert at the Shepherd School of Music or explore productions at the Houston Grand Opera for an immersive experience in classical music and storytelling.

3. Join Campus Arts Clubs: Community and Creativity

Rice University is a hub of creativity, with various student organizations dedicated to the arts. Join a music club, participate in theater productions, or engage with visual arts initiatives on campus. These clubs provide an outlet for your artistic interests and offer a sense of community and camaraderie among fellow students who share your passion.

4. Embrace Local Music Events: Houston's Sonic Landscape

Beyond the campus, Houston's diverse music scene offers a variety of genres and styles to explore. Attend local concerts, music festivals, or open mic nights to discover emerging artists and immerse yourself in the city's sonic landscape. From jazz to indie rock, there's something for every musical palate.

5. Incorporate Personal Artistic Pursuits: The Joy of Creation

Amidst your academic responsibilities, make space for your artistic pursuits. Whether it's painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument, dedicate time to nurture your creative side. The act of creation is fulfilling and a powerful stress reliever.

6. Language Courses: Bridging Cultural Divides

You can take advantage of language courses offered at Rice University. Learning a new language, as I did with Japanese, is a cognitive exercise and a cultural exploration. It opens doors to diverse experiences, enabling you to connect with people from different backgrounds and fostering a global perspective.

Carnatic Indian music on the violin is played sitting down with folded legs. Traditional attire is often worn during festivals or special occasions (drastically different based on which part of India).

In my journey, I have found solace and inspiration in playing Carnatic Indian music on the violin. The concept of raga, integral to Carnatic music, allows me to express and navigate different moods throughout the week. Whether I need a burst of playfulness with Kathanakuthuhalam or a teasing sense of romance with raga Reethigowla, the violin becomes my emotional anchor.

Learning Japanese at Rice University for the past three years while pursuing my Ph.D. has been an additional dimension to my life. It goes beyond linguistic proficiency; it opens my world to diverse experiences and facilitates connections with individuals from various cultural backgrounds.

Quote and Conclusion: The Enrichment of Art and Academia

In the words of Pablo Picasso, "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." As graduate students, our lives are filled with the dust of academic rigor. By integrating music and the arts, we can cleanse our souls, find inspiration, and create a harmonious balance between our scholarly pursuits and personal enrichment. So, let us embrace the symphony of academia and art, recognizing that the two can coexist, each enhancing the other in our journey of knowledge and self-discovery.