William and Mary

Fiona Balestrieri

Murray 1693 Scholar


Charlottesville, VA (Tandem Friends School)

Why W&M?

As a lifetime Virginia resident, I was, at first, unsure about attending a school in Williamsburg, VA. However, my research into William and Mary whittled away at my reservations and by the time I was offered the Murray scholarship, I was sold.  I dropped all of my other offers, including an Echols Scholarship at the University of Virginia, and accepted it.  William and Mary offers close contact with professors, great research opportunities, and a community of dedicated learners, who also happen to be wonderfully interesting people.


Linguistics and Ethnomusicology (self-designed interdisciplinary major)

Extracurriculars at W&M
  • Middle Eastern Music Ensemble: singer and nai/ney (Arabic flute) player
  • CPALs tutor ("Community Partnership for Adult Learners" dedicated to teaching English as a Second Language)
  • Reveille (an all-female a cappella group)
  • Occasional singer-songwriter performances for AMP's "Homebrew" series
Research at W&M
  • Fall semester of my Junior year, I wrote a paper exploring how the community of Virginia is imagined through music at two annual festivals, the State Fair of Virginia and the Richmond Folk Festival. I presented the paper the follwowing spring at MACSEM (Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology) conference, held at our very own College of William and Mary!
  • I worked closely with Professor Anne Rasmussen of the Music and Middle Eastern Studies departments as a teaching assistant, research assistant, and academic advisee.
  • My other research branched-out from my home-state of Virginia and focused on cultural politics in East Africa. After spending two months of the summer in Kenya teaching English, music, and math at Royal Kids primary school in Mikindani and Poetry at HOYWIK school in Kibera, a slum outside of Nairobi, I came back to America full of questions and determination to return. I pursued research in Tanzania the fall of my senior year, exploring both language and music ideologies in East African hip hop. I also applied my knowledge of linguistics to help design teaching material for English instruction in Kenya.

For my Murray project, I traveled to Oman to continue my study of MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) and Omani dialect. I combined my musical and linguistic skills to analyze the lyrics of Omani rap and hip hop and uncover language and music ideologies that inform Omani rap artists.