Emily Bradford, '18

April 10, 2018
Senior's passion for music culminates with two different research projects

By Sydney Collins, ‘20 

When Richmond native Emily Bradford, ‘18, first started applying to college, she had big plans. The violinist wanted to leave her hometown and study at a music conservatory out of state. However, she soon came to realize that the educational opportunity that was the right fit for her wouldn’t even require her to leave town. 

“Even though I lived in Richmond my whole life I realized that I didn’t know the city that well and I thought UR would be the most interesting place to be for four years,” Bradford said. “After taking a tour with a member of the music department, who told me about all the different opportunities available to me, I began to think UR might be a better fit for me than a conservatory-based program.” 

Bradford’s decision to attend UR proved to be beneficial in cultivating her love of music as a music major as well as discovering a new interest in rhetoric and communication studies. As a violinist, Bradford has been an active member of the UR chamber ensemble and orchestra since her first year. But she’s also expanded her musical worldview outside of classical music through her coursework.

“Two years ago I started studying Indonesian music with Dr. Andrew McGraw, who is an ethnomusicologist in the department,” Bradford said. “Learning about that music got me interested in Indonesia so I’ve been active in the gamelan program here for two years.” 

Bradford’s fascination with Indonesian culture and music prompted her to participate in the chaplaincy’s pilgrimage program to Bali in 2016. During her time in Bali, Bradford noticed the large population of visitors and how the tourism industry seemed to shape life on the island. 

“Everyone I met seemed to provide me with some touristic related service so I was interested in that dynamic of interactions between Americans with a lot more privilege coming to an island where the culture and economy is entirely built on serving foreigners,” Bradford said. “That was a research question I had when I left Bali that kind of grew over the next year until I was able to return to conduct my own independent research.” 

Bradford returned to Bali as part of her summer research fellowship and investigated the idea of tourism as a rhetorical discourse and how it has helped shape Balinese identity. This research became a projected entitled “The People of Paradise: Tourism and Constitutive Rhetoric in Bali” which Bradford will be presenting at the Student Symposium. In her presentation, Bradford will discuss and demonstrate her findings about tourism from her time in Bali. 

“I ended up using a theory that’s called Constitutive Rhetorical Theory which basically says that discourses—the ways that people talk and converse about things—makes up or constitutes their identity,” Bradford said. “I’m looking at who has created these discourses and how they have been spread. There was a totalitarian regime in Indonesia until the 1990s that was responsible for building this tourism industry in Bali. So I was looking at what documents were released that described Bali and how the Balinese people were both encouraged and coerced a little bit to enact this identity.”

While her rhetoric-based research was spurred by her interested in Indonesian music and culture, Bradford also wanted to pursue a project that called on her love of classical music and musicology.

“I’ve always been really involved in classical music because I perform it and all of my teachers perform it and those are the types of concerts I like going to,” Bradford said. “I was really interested in the question of will this music survive and will classical musicians be able to make a living?”

The result was her music senior thesis, “Darth Vader at the Symphony: ‘Pops’ Programming and Evolving Concert Conventions,” which explores the notion of concerts where symphony orchestras, instead of playing traditional classical repertoire, incorporate popular music into the programs to attract audiences. In her research, Bradford was looking at how these concerts affect audiences in terms of those who would not typically attend a classical concert but are pulled into the symphony by this technique.

“There’s a fear that this is cheapening classical music and relying on more popular music to bring in income rather than trying to promote classical music and its value,” she said. “I’m always very interested in what organizations like the Richmond Symphony are doing to keep the organization afloat, not just sell themselves out. At the same time, I want to see what they are doing to make the musical environment more inclusive and saying this is not some snooty highbrow thing; we want everyone in the theater.”

By sharing her research findings at the Symposium, Bradford is ending her senior year with a testament to the time and dedication she has put into causes important to her. After college, she would like to pursue a career in arts management by working for a symphony orchestra or arts nonprofit and possibly obtain a PhD in musicology. But wherever she ends up in life, Bradford knows she will be engaging in music.