Theresa Walle: Music as Communication


Theresa Walle is a fourth-year student at the University of Michigan. She is pursuing a BM in Vocal Performance, a BA in Communication Studies, and a minor in German Studies. Walle is the Editor of Sigma Alpha Iota–Alpha Chapter, an intern at St. Mary Student Parish, and the latest recipient of the MET Internship offered through EXCEL. Walle is interested in expanding her personal and professional efforts in Voice Performance and Communications to work within the religious community on various impactful social projects.

Since early childhood, Theresa Walle has been an avid singer, a multi-talented musician, and a passionate writer. Coming from Troy, Michigan, Theresa is part of a long line of Michigan Wolverines, “My four older siblings, my mom, both of my grandfathers, my uncles, and my cousin all attended U of M.” It’s no surprise that Theresa herself would eventually become part of this legacy, but her vital decision to attend U of M comes from a much deeper motivation than just the family’s legacy. With her many interests, Theresa is able to pursue the perfect academic career path for her: combining interests in music to gain a BM in Vocal Performance while simultaneously exercising her passion of writing with a BA in Communication Studies. Attending U of M also allowed the space for her to expand an interest in German language and culture, such that she also declared a minor in German Studies.

While Theresa has been singing since early childhood, her decision to pursue the art came later in 2013, when she toured Germany with the Blue Lake International Choir Ensemble. “[It] ignited my desire to audition as a vocalist for music school,” explains Walle. “I attended summer vocal artist programs at DePaw University and Westminster Choir College the following two summers.” Besides the many programs that Walle pursued, she also received top ratings at the MSVMA Solo & Ensemble both as a soloist and in her school’s honor choir.


With such a talented and extensive journey leading up to her current path as a vocalist, Walle expresses how she was still passionate about writing, particularly in journalism. “[My] school’s student-run newspaper, Newsprint, is one of the top student newspapers in the state. I was Editor-in-Chief my senior year, [ …] where I oversaw all aspects of the monthly paper and maintained a monthly editorial column. It was from this strong journalism background that drove me to pursue a degree in Communication Studies.” In her Communications Studies degree, Walle describes some of the interesting courses, such as “Media and the Body,” “Internet Law,” and “Media Industries.”

Achieving two degrees in two very different fields is not an easy task. It comes with its own ups and downs, but overall the University of Michigan allows the flexibility for students to become whoever they want to be, and to focus on areas that can be combined into a multi-faceted career. “There are certainly difficulties to balancing a dual degree,” says Walle, “but they’ve become a normal part of my life now. Particularly challenging is navigating the numerous requirements of each degree when courses overlap.” Accomplishing two separate degrees and a minor includes taking a bit of extra time; in Walle’s case, a fifth year. This extra time can be vital, though, as it opens up the opportunity for students to take advantage of on-campus resources for their own personal projects or a stronger focus on academia.

This fall Walle is embarking on an independent study with Dr. Piper from the vocal faculty, exploring themes of Catholicism in vocal repertoire. “Staying at the University a fifth year allows me time for more opportunities that I wouldn’t be able to take part in if I had to leave at the end of this year,” Walle describes. “I’m happy to be taking a fifth year to graduate, or else I would have no time outside of taking only the mandatory classes I need for graduation.”

Theresa highly encourages students to take the extra time they need to complete their degree(s). “We have the benefit of attending not only one of the top music schools in the country, but also one of the top universities,” Walle says, “There is no better time than now to utilize fully the resources this University has to offer.” Part of going to a diverse and exceptional school like U of M is making sure to take the time that is necessary to develop an individualized journey for a multi-talented, multi-faceted career. Branching out of our comfort zones and fields is part of what makes the undergraduate experience a life-long highlight. Walle describes, “I highly encourage all students to explore classes outside of their degree program. It is easy to stay at the music school and focus solely on my craft, but my LSA classes keep me connected to the ‘real world’ and help me look at the music industry through a more critical lense.”


One of the highlight activities that Walle has taken advantage of so far in her undergraduate career is the Metropolitan Opera Internship, offered through the SMTD’s EXCEL and cooperated with an EXCEL alumna. “I first heard about the MET internship my freshman year,” Walle explains, “I remember calling my mom in the dining hall, excited and amazed at the prospect of such a prestigious internship available to me.” She continues to describe how she finally decided to go “out on a limb” in her junior year and apply for the internship. After some collaboration with members of the EXCEL team and an interview process, she received the Internship and a stipend through EXCEL. She was also granted a scholarship through the Communications Department. “With this funding, I was able to afford housing, food, and transportation in New York for the summer,” Theresa describes.

Walle also expanded a bit more on her personal experiences with EXCEL. She describes its important to her as a student in both the SMTD, and the LSA. “EXCEL has proved to be a strong asset to me throughout my time at U of M. I highly recommend students to take advantage of the support EXCEL has to offer, whether that be résumé help or reviewing an application before submitting,” said Walle.

Whether you need privatized help with an application or you want to get advice on how to nail an interview, EXCEL is at your disposal. In Walle’s case, EXCEL was able to offer resources that expanded beyond the SMTD and was able to take her other degrees and interests into account. “I had a blast in New York, honestly the best summer of my life,” describes Walle. She expands on the many opportunities she had outside of just working in the MET office; opportunities that dig deeper into what she wants for her personal, academic, and professional life. EXCEL also offers many other opportunities besides the MET Internship. The resources available can help further than just academic or professional goals, they can also impact your personal growth and interests.

—Timothy Brewer

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