Eya Setsu ’18 thrives on challenge. As a College of Arts and Sciences double major (biology and music), member of the fencing club, secretary of University Scholars and commuter student, she is used to managing her time and testing her limits.
“I overload on credits,” said the Smithtown High School East graduate and St. James, New York resident, “but am fortunate enough to be learning in both fields that I love and am on track to graduate in four years.”
Inheriting a strong work ethic from her parents, Eya was encouraged to embrace difficult tasks early on, particularly academically, and it taught her how to adapt and trust her own capabilities.
Her musical training began in fifth grade as she tackled the violin. Eya recalled thinking she possessed average talent but her dedication paid off. Her seventh-grade teacher saw her potential and recommended her for the Long Island String Festival Association, which selects some of the best string players from around the country and puts them through a weekend of intense rehearsal that culminates in a concert.
“The music I played was so difficult for me at the time but then I was also shocked by how good everyone else was. The experience was life changing!”
A flurry of festivals followed and today Eya is auditioning to be accepted into a graduate program.
“I’m pretty sure I would not be able to live without music,” she said. “The passion to learn and immerse myself in a piece is too strong. I am not prepared to pursue music as just an option.”
High on her musical wish list is mastering the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius violin concertos, which with hard work are still several years away.
In the meantime, Eya is preparing students for New York State School Music Association festivals, drilling them with scales and sight-reading exercises to aid their progress.
Her first choice is to perform music as a livelihood but she would also consider becoming a professor or lecturer.
Eya’s love of science also flourished in middle school, beginning with a biology honors class. “The teacher was phenomenal and inspired me to start questioning how and why things work the way they do and the more I learned the more I wanted to know, leading to competition in the Science Olympiads,” she said.
Eya’s desire to learn about biology was based on a personal experience. “I became interested in cardiology because my mom has a heart condition and had an ICD/pacemaker implant installed that saved her life when I was in high school. I’ve always wanted to be able to explain to my mom what her doctors mean with their diagnoses,” Eya said.
If she chooses to pursue science, one career option she would consider would be to edit a scientific journal, because she enjoys making difficult topics more understandable.
While Eya admits that science and music are disparate disciplines, she acknowledges they do share some commonality. “The two worlds don’t actually mesh very well in regards to subject matter, but the analytical skills I need to understand how one small aspect can affect the whole is used in both mindsets,” she said. “Science usually involves a more methodical approach, which are also the skills I used to break down how I want to approach a challenging musical piece.”
Over time, Eya said she has gotten better at “flipping the switch” between music’s lack of hard-and-fast rules and science’s strict theorems and formulas.
Another area where Eya initially felt out of her comfort zone was the Stony Brook Fencing Club. As a freshman, she joined the club on a whim. “I was not particularly physically fit or knowledgeable about the sport and the team was so welcoming to me,” she said.
She enjoys competing in a handful of off-campus national tournaments against other collegiate clubs every year.
“Despite the intense physicality, it is very much a mental game, like chess,” she said. “It also takes diligence, perseverance, dedication and communication skills” — all traits that have served Eya very well so far in her academic journey.
— Glenn Jochum