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John D. Kapusta ’09

By Kerry A. Goodenow, Crimson Staff Writer

When asked if he has any regrets from his four years at Harvard, John D. Kapusta ’09 succinctly replies “I don’t think so,” an answer unsurprising to anyone familiar with his musical endeavors.

During his time at the College, Kapusta has been integral to many musical organizations; his activities have ranged from playing the trumpet in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra to sitting on the board of the Dunster House Opera.

A joint Music and Literature concentrator, Kapusta is also one of the few Harvard students participating in Harvard’s joint degree program with the New England Conservatory, which involves a full course of study at Harvard and an additional year at the NEC to complete a Masters degree.

It was the freedom of the program, which entails weekly vocal lessons, that allowed Kapusta to pursue other musical interests in his extracurricular activities. “I had played the trumpet in high school and had gotten to play in all-county and all-state one-weekend orchestras, but never got to play in an orchestra regularly, so I wanted to do that here,” he says. “I knew I would be taking voice lessons anyway.”

While Kapusta did not originally intend to study music academically at Harvard, he was surprised by how beneficial the endeavor has been. “I thought that Music 51 would be rehearsing old hat technical studies that I thought that I had already done, but the class was much, much more than that. It really did open my ears to listening to what is going on in music in new and different ways that I hadn’t thought about before.”

The synthesis which Kapusta has experienced through his academic and extracurricular works is undeniable. He says studying music “affected how I approached the musical projects that I got to do on campus, enjoying doing new music of Harvard student composers, working with them, thinking about what exactly are we doing when we play a piece from the mid-nineteenth century or Mozart. What’s going on? Why do we enjoy it so much? What’s there?”

Aside from the academic study of music, Kapusta has had many rewarding extracurricular highlights. He refers to conducting the Harvard Ballet company as “an artistic high” in its collaboration between student dancers and musicians. “It was extremely gratifying to see how two very fine artistic groups, artistic communities even, came together to present something jointly,” he says.

Kapusta has few complaints about the arts at Harvard. While the youthful nature of the joint program with the NEC provides logistical challenges, Kapusta anticipates calendar reform and the maturing of the program will be able to remedy those issues. His only other “dream” for Harvard would be a performance space more suited to operatic performances. “Both [Harvard opera] companies perform in a dining hall,” he says, “which is part of their tradition, but in some ways is sort of limiting.”

After graduation, Kapusta intends to take a year off before returning to the NEC to finish his Masters in music. He believes that the year, which he plans to spend studying music and French in Paris, will be a well-used break.

“I’m still pretty young, and I’m not one of those singers with an extremely mature voice at this point,” he says. “It is really good to have the extra year to develop musically and intellectually as well as physically.”

In discussing his long term goals, Kapusta has decided to pursue a career as a classical singer, but he would be open to any other opportunities that present themselves. “Whether the singing works out ultimately or not,” he says, “I want to have a career in music somehow.”

—Staff writer Kerry A. Goodenow can be reached at

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