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Music major finds voice, confidence at York College

Anna Tope sings into a microphone in a recital hall.

Anna Tope '20 learned to sing before she learned to talk—at least that’s what her mom tells her. Singing felt natural. It made her happy. All the way through middle school, she sang with the choir and performed musical theatre. But, in high school, her confidence vanished and, for a few rough years, she stopped singing.

When she came to York College of Pennsylvania, though, she got her voice back. She found the opportunity to help others appreciate music, and with the support of her professors in the Music department, she rediscovered her passion for the activity that brings her so much joy: singing.

Becoming a mentor

Anna was a senior in high school when she first met Nicole. “She was just such a fun person to work with,” Anna says. Nicole was partially blind. She struggled with communication and had pretty severe anxiety. Through the Students with Disabilities program, Anna signed up to be a peer tutor for Nicole.

They’d go to theatre class together and Anna would encourage Nicole, helping her to overcome her anxiety of public performance. “It was a really rewarding experience to help her through that,” Anna says. “At the end of the year, she sang two songs in front of the class with so much confidence.”

The experience renewed Anna’s own love of theatre. She started trying her hand at songwriting and learned to play guitar. She started leading worship at her church, which fostered a new enjoyment of singing. Slowly, her confidence started to build back up.

A boost to her confidence

Anna hadn’t really planned to go to York College, she says, and she definitely wasn’t going to major in music. But, the minute she stepped on campus for Accepted Students Day, she knew she’d found her school. “I just felt like I was at home,” she says.

There was a buzz of excitement and welcome she felt from the students and the faculty. “It was a really special moment for me because I was like, ‘I need to go here. This is where I belong,’” she remembers.

She was undeclared that first semester, but York College’s strong undeclared program helped guide her to where she belonged: the Music department. She took voice lessons her first semester. She credits Professor Megan Poff with giving her that final push to help her feel like she was good enough to join the music department. “Without my voice professor, there is definitely no way I’d be where I am now,” she says. “She boosted up my confidence so much.”

While at York College, she’s been an orientation leader, a First Year Student Fellow, a Peer Advisor and involved in campus ministry since her freshman year.

Like a family

Since declaring her major in Music with a focus in Vocal Performance, Anna’s confidence has only grown. She’s performed in The Addams Family, The Secret Garden, and last year tried her hand at community theatre with DreamWrights Center for Community Arts’s production of The Little Mermaid. “Now that I’m doing theatre again, I never want to stop,” she says.

She’s graduating in the spring and although she’s planning to continue performing in community theatre, she’s going to miss her classmates and faculty at York College. “We are like a family in the Music department,” she says. “I feel like I owe them so much.”

The professors believe in their students, she says, and go out of their way to help and support them. “That has done wonders for my confidence,” she says.

Looking ahead

Anna is planning to start teaching vocal lessons after she graduates and hopefully pick up some gigs for herself. She continues to be a worship leader and wants to further her ministry work.

Anna’s already planning to go back to school to get her master’s in a few years. She wants to be a music therapist, helping more kids like she helped Nicole.

“Singing is my heart and my passion,” Anna says.  “To be able to use that to help others—now that’s something really beautiful.”