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Madi MarksMadi Marks, class of 2024, was one of five students selected in Spring 2023 for Honors Carolina‘s prestigious Burch Fellowship. Billed as the “ultimate ‘go anywhere’ fellowship,” according to their website, the application and interview process for the fellowship is rigorous and the competition is fierce. That certainly didn’t stop Madi though.

Madi, a music education major, studied abroad in the fall of 2022 and developed a love for travel almost as big as her passion for music. Shortly into the spring semester, this fellowship presented an opportunity for her to explore directions she hadn’t considered for her music education career before her semester abroad. After weeks of refining her application materials, interviewing, and the agonizing wait for decisions, she received word that she’d done it – she was one of the 2023 Burch Fellows. The moment was full of joy and anticipation for more international travel.

Madi is a big proponent of funding opportunities like this and expressed how much she hopes other music students will seek out and take advantage of study abroad opportunities and funding opportunities such as this one or the Mayo Undergraduate Research Fund in Music through the department. There are so many ways to fund exciting projects across the globe, and many of them are right here on campus.

UNC Music: Tell us about the Burch Fellowship and what your research this summer will entail.
Madi Marks: The Burch Fellowship is a funding opportunity for summer research to any undergraduate student with at least one semester completed to six semesters at UNC. Burch specifically is a “create your own adventure” fellowship where the student creates, from the ground up, a project around something they want to research for a minimum of six weeks. Burch fellowships can be international as well as domestic, though most are international.

For my project, I am traveling to Florence, Italy and am going to study the differences between American versus Italian music making in the classroom in secondary schools. I will observe Italian secondary music education, participate in the teaching and mentoring process in Italian public schools, and prepare Italian music students for a final public program. My project will include two main institutions: The Il Trillo International School of Music in Florence, Italy, and Istituto Musicale Sammarinese located in the Republic of San Marino. I will also study with Orchestra Sinfonica Fiorentina in Florence.

Madi Marks looking out over Florence at sunset.UNC Music: How did you find out about this opportunity and what inspired you to apply?
Marks: I studied abroad in the Fall of 2022 in London and Italy, studying music as part of the Burch Musical Perspectives Field Research program. I had never been out of the country before or truly had any interest in international anything. Studying abroad changed my life. Not only did it open my eyes to how large the world truly is, but it ignited a newfound passion for travel in me. I have always been passionate about music and from a young age knew I wanted to pursue it as a career, but travel sparked a new excitement in me, a similar excitement to music. In early January I got an email about a fellowship called “Burch” through the study abroad email listserv and it clicked- a way I can combine two passions, music, and travel.

UNC Music: How will this summer’s experience impact your senior year? Similarly, how does it relate to your career goals?
Marks: I honestly think of my college career as two separate sets of two years. My first two years were a lot of detailed music work (music theory, history, lessons, aural skills, etc.) and once I reached my junior year with study abroad, and found a passion for research and travel on top of my passion for music, college shifted for me. This fellowship opens a large number of doors to further myself as a person, a musician, and an educator. I am trying to incorporate international music research into my career as a band director, as well as using my fellowship to apply for future grants to further research such as the Fullbright and Mayo Grant. My ultimate career goal is to be a college band director and further music education on an international level.

by Catherine Zachary, ’10

This story was originally posted on on April 25, 2023. Read the follow-up story from October 4, 2023.