Tesni (Searles '08) Freed arrived on campus just like any other first-year student: hopeful, eager to start the next new and unpredictable phase of life known as college.
“I was a freshman excited to embrace a piano concentration,” she says, “and then this happened.”
“This” was a September 2004 diagnosis of double tendonitis in her elbows, effectively putting an end to her dreams of a concentration in piano. Though she had experienced discomfort prior to her arrival on campus, the increased practice time and intensified daily tasks that come with the transition into living on one’s own aggravated the problem from a mere annoyance to a serious ailment.
“I was disheartened and in physical pain,” says Tesni. “I felt weak and helpless. I questioned a lot of things and feared having to leave the music department since I could no longer focus on the instrument I had been accepted for.”
To her surprise and pleasure, the music department rallied around her in an effort to help her keep pursuing her love of music. Besides supporting Tesni in prayer during her painful physical therapy and chiropractor appointments, the theory and piano instructor taught her new techniques to maintain her abilities on the keys; the Genevans’ choir director provided her with a stand so she wouldn't have to hold her music while singing; and Dr. David Smith, her adviser and a professor of voice, encouraged her to pursue a vocal concentration instead.
“Even though I lacked previous training,” Tesni says, “Dr. Smith has brought out the best in my voice, helped me reach new musical heights and shared both his professional expertise and personal advice with me.”
Tesni has bounced back and thrown herself wholeheartedly into her new concentration. She sings and travels with the Genevans, for whom she has been an alto section leader since her sophomore year. She continues to compose her own songs and has even managed to “resurrect some piano- and keyboard-playing.”
Tesni might not be where she is today had she attended another larger institution.
“While people may question how small Geneva’s music department is, this is what provides students with support and makes the wealth of knowledge within the program so apparent,” she says. “As music majors of any type, such care and concern from faculty and peers is pivotal to see students through the highs and lows of college life and the musical demands of practicing and performances.”
She credits her deepened passion and increased confidence to her experience with faculty and fellow students at Geneva, saying, “Because of what they have invested in me, I will soon leave Geneva with a more mature singing voice, a well-trained ear, endurance for practicing, better theory knowledge and a lot of memories. For me, college has been a journey of discovering what personal identity, passion and calling all mean in my life.”
And though her journey has been anything but easy, Tesni has discovered what that calling is: in her words, “To change the world, through music lived out in faith.”
- by Brooke Prokopchak ('08)
Tesni (Searles) Freed graduated from Geneva in 2008.
Geneva students have the opportunity each summer to attend Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies to develop practical methods of caring for the environment.