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Ferraguto ’05 Earns Pisk Prize for Best Paper at American Musicological Society

Latest student to succeed under Jessica Waldoff, Holy Cross music professor
January 11th, 2012 by 

Mark Ferraguto ’05, of Hartford, Conn., received the Paul A. Pisk Prize for the best scholarly paper given by a graduate student at the American Musicological Society. Ferraguto, who is working on a Ph.D. in musicology at Cornell University, is the latest in a long line of students to see marked success after having been taught and mentored by Jessica Waldoff, associate professor of music at Holy Cross.

Ferraguto’s paper, titled “Beethoven à la moujik: Russianness and Learned Style in the ‘Rasumovsky’ String Quartets,” continues the work on Beethoven that he began as a Fenwick Scholar, the highest academic honor bestowed on a student at Holy Cross. Students selected as Fenwick Scholars design a program of independent study and research, with the consultation of one or more faculty members, to be conducted during their fourth year at Holy Cross.

Waldoff, who was in attendance at the meeting, served as Ferraguto’s Fenwick advisor.

“I was absolutely thrilled when the Pisk Prize was announced and bursting with pride,” says Waldoff. “The Pisk is a huge honor. Mark was sitting just one seat over from me in the same row so I was one of the first to congratulate him.”

She says Ferraguto’s recognition is well deserved.

“I have been expecting great things of Mark for many years now. He was a standout from his first semester with me, and then he won the Fenwick, and then a Mellon Fellowship. He keeps his head down for a long time and then whatever he comes up with is even better than you expected — something that redefines excellence,” says Waldoff.

Ferraguto describes Waldoff as an “exceptional mentor.”

“When I tell faculty members from other colleges about the music department at Holy Cross, they express disbelief and astonishment that a college of its size has sent so many students on to advanced degree programs in music. This is a wonderful testament to Jessica’s abilities as a teacher and adviser, as well as to the overall caliber of the music department,” he says.

Daniel DiCenso ’98, assistant professor of music, who was also in attendance at the event, says, “Mark joins a veritable ‘who’s who’ among up-and-coming young scholars. Mark’s award was an especially nice Holy Cross moment.”

“No sooner was the award announced than did my cell phone begin buzzing with text messages from fellow Holy Cross alums in the audience excited about the news,” he says.

A number of recent Holy Cross alums, currently faculty or graduate students in musicology, were in attendance at the business meeting, including Fenwick Scholar Catherine Hughes ’07, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Fenwick Scholar Evan MacCarthy ’03, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is now a college fellow in the music department at Harvard; Maria Purciello ’98, who received her Ph.D. from Princeton University and now holds a tenure-track position at the University of Delaware; and Megan Ross ’11, currently on a presidential scholarship at Boston University.

They also share another thing in common: they are all Waldoff’s former students.

“For such a tiny department, Jessica’s students have an exceptionally impressive track record,” says DiCensco. “Though we don’t have any hard statistics, her former students and I believe that there is no other single college or single undergraduate mentor with so many recent graduates in the field. Period.”

Others of Waldoff’s musicology students have gone on to achieve success in music in recent years. For example, Marissa Biaggi ’00, who did her Ph.D. at Princeton University on the prestigious Beinecke Scholarship, is now a creative content editor for the Metropolitan Opera and Mark DeLello ’98 did an M.A. in musicology at Duke University and is now a research and media specialist at the Brandeis University Library.

For his part, DiCenso, who was one of Waldoff’s first music majors, now holds a tenure-track position at Holy Cross. Among other academic pursuits, he studied music at the University of Pennyslvania, and this summer he is expected to graduate from Cambridge University where he was the first Holy Cross student to be a Gates Scholar.

So what is Waldoff’s secret formula for breeding success?

“Colleagues at graduate institutions often compliment me on our students and have asked me what our secret is. I wish I knew,” she says. “We do everything we can to help our students, but they are very special. We take great pleasure in their success.”

In fact, Waldoff says it’s “old-fashioned hard work” that helps students succeed.

“One of the great advantages of teaching at a place like Holy Cross is the opportunity to work individually and in small groups with students who have the talent and desire to succeed,” she says. “For those who want to go on to graduate programs, I tailor assignments and tutorials to provide preparation they need. When there is enough interest among current students, I teach a 400-level seminar titled Musicology, which I developed in the fall of 1997 for interested students.”

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