Ten years ago, I was asked that dreaded question constantly: “So, where are you going to college? Are you going to study music?” I would shrug my shoulders. “No, I’m not really interested in going to college…maybe one day, though.” Friends were surprised but nonetheless supportive; I had decided I would start teaching piano lessons to young children that fall after I graduated high school.
Six years of teaching brought so much joy and fulfillment to my life. However, by year five, I was restless. “Maybe God has something else for me to do,” I wondered. Sure enough, He did. The answer came almost audibly that fall of 2014: “Go to the University of Mobile and study music.”
One year later, 24-year-old freshman Rebekah left her hometown on the Mississippi Coast and started her first semester in college. The next four years were a blur of classes, practicing, performances, and not enough sleep — and on May 11, 2019, I walked across a stage in joyful satisfaction as I was handed my diploma: the Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance was mine at last.
The journey wasn’t over. I had recognized pursuing a Master of Music in Piano Performance as the logical next step for almost four years. I could have chosen any number of different schools to potentially attend. Why did I stay at University of Mobile?
First of all, I have had the tremendous blessing of studying with a renowned Steinway Artist, Dr. Kadisha Onalbayeva, for four years—and I couldn’t imagine pursuing another degree under anyone else. “Dr. O” is not only my piano professor: she is my greatest supporter, encourager, confidant, and friend.
Secondly, the conservatory-style master’s degree program at UM is geared toward creating incredibly well-rounded musicians who can succeed in a wide variety of careers. I didn’t want to just be a great performer; I wanted to learn how to teach any student of any age effectively.
And finally, I loved the community I’d found both at UM and in the Mobile area. Being surrounded by people who care about you and want to see you succeed makes all the difference in the world.
From the first day I set foot on campus, I could feel the presence of the Lord in this place. It’s special. I’ve grown in countless ways during my time at UM, and the journey of fulfilling my Great Commission Calling has only just begun.