Mary Thérèse Zirolli
Mary Thérèse Zirolli looks back on her days as a freshman at Immaculata with a grin, describing herself as “shy and quiet.” After being homeschooled throughout her life along with her five siblings, she started out as a typical commuter: go to classes, but spend the majority of time off-campus at her West Chester home.
But after going on the freshmen Novaremus Retreat, when students look back at their first semester of college and evaluate what they enjoyed and what they’d like to change, she decided to break out of her commuter routine. Rather than dipping a tentative toe into campus life, she dove in headlong, throwing herself into campus activities, beginning to try new things, and gradually establishing herself as a leader among her classmates.
“I definitely came out of my shell and found out who I am,” she says. She often stayed on campus until midnight, and you could even find her at Immaculata on weekends.
This shift in her campus involvement paid off, and Zirolli now credits Immaculata with developing her leadership skills. She humbly mentions the many activities in which she has participated and played a leadership role, such as serving as a commuter representative for the student government, being the commuter council chair to try to get commuters more involved on campus, being a member of the Honors Program, working as a tour guide, serving as the music education vice president and president, participating in improv coffeehouses, being an accompanist, doing publicity for various events, meeting the incoming freshmen by being a student leader during New Student Orientation, and serving as a campus ministry retreat leader.
A music education major with a concentration in piano, Zirolli says she “fell in love” with the Music Department on a tour of Immaculata and didn’t apply to any other colleges. She student-taught band and orchestra at Great Valley Middle School and hopes to get a job as a middle school music teacher after she graduates. She enjoys teaching at the middle school level because the kids are at a good in-between age—not yet old enough to think they know more than their teachers, but old enough to engage with adults more easily. She wants to study music education or conducting in graduate school next year, but she has a laid back attitude about it. “My philosophy is that whatever’s supposed to happen will happen,” she says.
In addition to playing the piano, Zirolli was inspired to learn the violin after watching a violinist play at her church. She then taught herself the flute as a young teen and later picked up the piccolo, percussion, and at least a half dozen other instruments in the course of her music education studies. She won the Rocco N. and Sara J. Borrelli scholarship her sophomore year for showing evidence of outstanding development in music performance, and she won the Presser scholarship for overall music excellence her junior year. At commencement, she received the prestigious Reverend William E. Campbell Medal for Music.
Her favorite piece to play on the piano is Gershwin’s “Prelude No. 1,” a toe-tapping, jazzy piece that she can tell her audience enjoys. For her senior recital, she played seven piano pieces and one violin piece by composers such as Chopin, Gershwin, Mozart, and Debussy, ranging in style from dramatic to serene to playful.
During her last semester at Immaculata, Zirolli took a seminar and counterpoint class with William Carr, D.M.A., Steinway Artist and professor of music and piano. She fondly names these as the classes from which she learned the most, composing 25 measures of an invention and writing a 40-page paper about why music is important for students to learn at a young age. She says of Dr. Carr, “He teaches you to be creative in what you do and to do what you love, because otherwise your heart won’t be in it.”
Zirolli’s heart has fully been in her education at Immaculata. “Immaculata has given me a lot of tools I’ve needed,” she says, “but also showed me how to use the tools I’ve been given.”