Sally Kelley placed first in the 2022 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Sally’s project was titled, “Criterion for Tune: Identifying ‘New Englandly’ Traits of Alice Parker’s Choral Settings of Emily Dickinson Poetry.” Sally earned a Doctor of Arts in Music in May 2022 from Ball State.

Dr. Kelley’s advisor, Dr. Andrew Crow, said this about her, “Sally has developed a wonderful way of seeing any subject through many possible lenses, which is a historical role for the arts, and music in particular. She is practiced at avoiding the obvious path as the only path to understanding. So, she can adeptly present complex material to a broad audience by encircling various thought processes before drawing them into her thesis. All this comes with a sharp sense of humor and a welcoming manner, reinforced with thorough scholarship.”

Here is a Q and A with Sally

What made you select your research topic?

The choir in which I was singing was rehearsing a choral work by Alice Parker that set seven of Emily Dickinson’s poems to music. I had never much cared for Dickinson’s poetry because I had trouble understanding it. But somehow through the music, something unlocked for me. Then, the director read a quote by the composer in which she describes the music as being “New Englandly.” This piqued my curiosity. I needed to know what that meant.

Please tell us a little about your research:

​I am analyzing three choral cycles composed by Alice Parker that are all settings of Emily Dickinson poetry. My goal is to identify New Englandly elements in the music that map onto the New Englandly characteristics of Dickinson’s poetry.

How did the 3MT Competition experience benefit you?

The 3MT Competition helped me figure out the most salient pieces of information that summed up my research. This led me to greater clarity as I edited my dissertation.

 What would you tell another student to encourage them to sign-up for the next 3MT competition?

​This competition helps you really boil down your research to the most basic, yet most important points. It forces you to come up with a concise way to describe your research so that, ideally, anyone can understand what it is you are doing. This helps gives you clarity in your research goals/objectives but also demands that you think through how you are communicating that to others who are not in your field to captivate their interest in your topic.

What brought you to Ball State?

The doctoral program in music at Ball State is very different from other programs around the country. It does not just prepare you in artistry and scholarship but also prepares you as an educator. The program involves coursework on how to be a college professor. This was the selling point for me. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just good at my craft but that I could teach others to be as well.

What are your future goals/career goals?

​Two roads diverged… (another New England poet). I see myself perhaps taking one of two different routes. Road one: finding a position as a professor at a university, teaching conducting, and leading choral ensembles.

Road two: managing a professional choral ensemble.

​Who knows? Perhaps I can travel them both.

Watch the 2022 Ball State 3-Minute Thesis Competition: