Mary Anne Phan is the most recent winner of the NABE Foundation/Americans for the Arts Scholarship Award.
Since the age of five, I cannot remember a day where I have not held a violin in my hands. After sawing away at a wooden box for fifteen years, I’ve certainly learned some lessons beyond how to perform an informed interpretation of Bach. The inflection point of my violin career came from studying the legendary Mozart Concerto in G Major. Every violinist knows it, has played it, and has a different opinion on just about every note in the piece. Revelation came when my teacher paused and asked “What’s your plan for that first line?” As an eleven year old I had no semblance of what she meant, but her words resonate with me to this day.
Making art is not easy, and the path to becoming an artist involves more than just passion. Every passage an audience hears results from years of diligence—comes from the careful planning of every applied ounce of pressure and movement from the body to the bow and the strings. Though art is hailed as creation from raw emotion, without technique, without a “plan,” there is no facility for art. Michelangelo said “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.” My teacher’s teacher, violin virtuoso Nathan Milstein said, “Practicing with your head for thirty minutes will accomplish more than practicing with your hands for three hours.” The importance of truly engaging in one’s art applies to any field of study.
Whether I am riding for the Rhodes Equestrian Team or studying my fields of economics and art history, the mental focus and discipline I developed practicing the violin give me a profound insight into what I need to do to succeed. Famously called “the dismal science” by Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle, economics is a field sometimes shortsightedly deemed dry and empirical in its regards to society. However, the patterns and theories I have learned in my studies reflect an intuition and insightfulness into our world that to me are just as captivating as the light contrast in a Caravaggio.
Conversely, art history is not solely comprised of scholars waxing poetic about Rembrandt’s brush strokes, the tools of art historical thinking actually process more empirical data than many realize. Moreover, economics is a gargantuan force in influencing the world of art. During my undergraduate career, I hope to delve into learning the methods of economics and the themes of art history in a light that will lead me into an interesting and prosperous career.
My studies fit my passions and through the practice of fine art I have worked to develop the skills necessary to pursue my fields of interest. As a student equestrian athlete, I must keep my body strong for my sport and organize my time around team commitments--this is certainly beneficial, but the techniques of art grant me a profound awareness of both emotion and systemization that I find improves my daily life and thinking even more. As a recipient of the National Association for Business Economics Scholarship in Americans for the Arts, I am honored and grateful that such an award even exists for fine-arts students pursuing finance and economics. This scholarship will allow me to continue to explore my interests at Lincoln College, Oxford University and there I shall continue to work towards my future with a native Tennessee saying forever in my head, “can’t never could, and can’t never will.”