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Alumni Spotlight: Molly Pinto Madigan ‘13

Music Major

What was your experience before coming to Salem State?

I was homeschooled up until college, and my first classroom experience was at Salem State University. I took a gap year between high school and college, so I could do some traveling and figure out what direction I wanted to go career-wise. I'm forever grateful to my first and favorite teacher, my mom, for making me do math and all the other things I didn't find particularly interesting as a kid. Because of her, the hardest thing when I got to college was sitting in a chair for so long, and not the academics.


Why did you decide to attend Salem State?

I ended up taking a few ethnomusicology classes with Peter Kvetko during my gap year, and I knew right away I wanted to come to Salem State. As a prospective music student, I looked at some places like Berklee, but I didn't want such a specific education. I knew I wanted a school that also had a strong English/Creative Writing program and when I learned about the Honors Program, I loved the idea of small classes, and the strong, challenging academic environment.


What made you choose the major that you did? Did you consider any other options?

I considered a lot of options, and I have a lot of interests. Music had always been a part of my life, and while I originally thought I didn't want to do it professionally (lest it lose some of its magic for me), I quickly realized I wanted to pursue it at the highest level. I loved that the music department offered courses in ethnomusicology, had a world music ensemble, and was such a vibrant community of faculty and students.

Were you a part of any groups or clubs on campus?

I was one credit short of a second minor in Italian, and I was an active member of the Italian Club, which was so much fun. I also learned to salsa dance through one of the on-campus clubs, and students would go salsa dancing in downtown Salem on Wednesday nights, which sparked an interest in dance that has led to my full-on ballroom dancing obsession.


What classes or faculty members had the greatest impact on you?

Oh, man. It's hard to pick because I had so many wonderful experiences with classes and professors. I've mentioned Peter Kvetko and his ethnomusicology classes, and I enjoyed every class I took with the music faculty. I also had some stand-out English professors. The creative writing courses I took with Vanessa Ramos were some of the most enjoyable, creatively constructed classes I've ever had, and Prof. Ramos is still the first person I go to about advice for my novels, the publishing industry, and the ups and downs of creative life; also, Rod Kessler, the late Richard Elia, and many others.


Was there a specific out-of-classroom learning experience that was especially significant to your career preparation?

In the creative writing class I took one spring, Prof. Vanessa Ramos would tell us to take our notebooks and go outside and watch people, listen to conversations, write what we saw, heard, felt. It was the best out-of-classroom classroom experience, and it kind of confirmed that the creative life was the life for me.


What was one of your favorite moments at Salem State?

One of my favorite moments was at the Honors Convocation, which was held at the Hawthorne Hotel, they asked me to perform my original music for the rest of the Honors Program and the Honors faculty. That stood out as a really nice memory for me.


What was your favorite activity or event that you attended?

I used to love all the visiting artists that the music department would host for lecture/demonstrations in the Recital Hall!


What is your favorite thing you have done post-graduation? 

I think my favorite things I've done post-graduation have all been creative projects. I recorded my first solo album as a singer/songwriter as part of my final project for the Music Major, and since then I've recorded four more (I'm in the studio right now working on my 6th album). My last album, which I released during the pandemic, was a 25-track folk-rock opera ("The Ballad of Tam Lin") retelling an old Scottish ballad through my own words and music. It was really fun to see it come together, and we performed it with a full band and cast of singers live on stage a few times.

I also wrote my first novel in college and have continued on with that! I'm working on my 5th novel right now. I'm also a competitive ballroom/Latin dancer, and me and my dance partner recently won Top Overall Solo and Best of the Best Showdance for one of our dance numbers at Ohio Star Ball, the biggest competition in the country.


What has your journey looked like post-graduation?

I'm a recording artist and a performing singer/songwriter, a novelist, and I also teach private music lessons -- something I never thought I would want to do, but which I ended up really enjoying. Right now, I have students from ages 3 to 83, and I'm learning things from them every day. I also got into competitive ballroom and Latin dance, which is a new way for me to explore my love of music. I train hard, travel around the country to compete in different cities, and I love it. A fun project was making a music video for my original song "Never Loved," which featured my dancing, my singing/playing, my lyrics, and my music. A real synthesis of some of my passions.

I also started a Patreon page for my music, where people can subscribe to see exclusive music-related content, receive handwritten letters each month, etc. It's a fun way for me to keep in touch with the people who support my music.


What advice do you have for prospective students thinking about following in your footsteps?

Take the time to talk to your professors and learn from as many people as you can. Doing the minimum is fine, good grades are great, but some of the best learning I did came through asking questions, listening, and making time to connect with people.


What do you wish you had known before starting college?

That it goes by quickly. That college isn't about checking off boxes to get access to a degree. It's about the journey, as cliche as that sounds. It's about the skills you learn, knowledge you gain access to, and connections you form along the way.


What is your best advice for future students?

Try different things. Take random classes that have nothing to do with your career path. Join clubs, go to events, and try to let yourself be exposed to as many new experiences as possible.


To learn more about Molly:

Instagram (@mpintomadigan)

 Facebook (mollypintomadigan).

Learn more about Molly's next album

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