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BW alumna awarded Fulbright to Spain

With a goal of promoting diversity within the field of classical music, Bonnie Vigil '24 is headed to Spain in September as a Fulbright award recipient.

 Bonnie Vigil on a study abroad trip

The violin performance major joins an elite group of individuals who went through a highly competitive process to secure the coveted grant from the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Named a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Vigil is among a small percentage of applicants who received funding to represent the U.S. overseas.

As part of her nine-month appointment, Vigil will live and teach English at two schools in the Asturias region. Her role includes both assistant-teaching English as a foreign language and assistant-teaching in English for subjects such as social studies, science, technology and art.

Connecting music with language

Bonnie Vigil with violin
"As a BW Spanish minor, it just made sense to choose a Spanish-speaking country," said the Springfield, Virginia, resident. "I also wanted to connect with my roots as a person of Spanish descent.

"I look forward to exercising my studies of Spanish history, culture and language to create an environment of mutual exchange and understanding among my students. I plan to use my Fulbright experience to inform how I learn music and teach it to others. I've always believed that music and language are one and the same, and I want to explore that concept to the fullest extent possible," she remarked.

"My studies of music and Spanish have influenced how I view language. The way musical phrases mimic the natural patterns of human speech, no matter the composer's nationality, proves that the foundations of human communication remain the same no matter the tongue," believes Vigil.

"Both music and language possess prosody and syntax, both rely on the placement of sounds in time, and both require diligent practice to learn. I've seen firsthand how music can forge a community between different people, and I want to push the boundaries of how far music can go in breaking down cultural barriers and, by extension, language barriers," she added.

Bridging her BW studies to grad school

"I hope to use this experience abroad in combination with my musical education to promote diversity within the field of classical performance. Much of my college career has been dedicated to studying the history and culture of Spain and how music and the performing arts have contributed to a sense of cultural and national identity in the Iberian Peninsula," explained Vigil.

"In my graduate work, I would love to continue exploring the music of the Iberian peninsula and how it has been affected by cross-cultural exchange with the countries of Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean," noted Vigil, who will be starting at Shenandoah University the year after completing her Fulbright.

Vigil went on to say that the role of a Fulbright is to act as a cultural ambassador. "While abroad, I plan to assist in the music education of my students — whether that means volunteering with their music classes or offering violin lessons. I also plan to connect with the local music scene by contacting community orchestras and local musicians so I can keep performing. You can take the girl out of music school, but you can't take music school out of the girl," she said with witty candor.

Impressive record of Fulbright success

In receiving the Fulbright honor, Vigil credits both her music and Spanish faculty for providing assistance and support. Baldwin Wallace’s Fulbright Program is under the direction of Drs. Matthew Feinberg, associate professor of Spanish, and Danielle Kuntz, associate professor of music history and literature.

Since 2019, BW has had nine finalists and one semi-finalist. In 2024, BW had two finalists and one semi-finalist, just missing the elite designation of being named a top-Fulbright-producing institution. The Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. government in partnership with countries around the world, awards grants to approximately 20 percent of applicants, making it an esteemed honor.

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