Student Spotlight: Evan Bernardy

Evan Bernardy ’18Evan Bernardy ’18 is one of the many performing arts scholarship students minoring in the performing arts and majoring in another discipline. Hailing from Novato, Calif., Bernardy is a business major with a finance concentration in the School of Economics and Business Administration and is a music minor in the Performing Arts Department. Like many students in the Performing Arts Department, Bernardy’s interest in music started in late childhood. “I never really had any interest in music growing up, until I heard a jazz band when I was in the fifth grade,” said Bernardy. “I heard this really good alto saxophonist, and I thought she was one of the best players I had ever heard. From that point on, I wanted to play the saxophone.” 

While in middle school, Bernardy indulged in his passion through a robust music program at school. “The music department would hold classes after school and even during lunch. It was a great environment for a blossoming musician. Through the music program, I was exposed to all types of music, but I fell in love with jazz specifically,” said Bernardy. Towards the end of high school when it came time to look at colleges, Saint Mary’s was one of the schools Bernardy looked at as his father is an SMC graduate. 

“When I was looking around for schools, I wanted to make sure I had the option to play music. I wasn’t so set on being a musician that I wanted to go to a strictly music-based school. I wanted a diverse campus where I could study business and also music,” said Bernardy. Bernardy’s father researched the Performing Arts Department and contacted music Professor John Maltester. When Bernardy and his father came to Saint Mary’s to visit, Bernardy had a private lesson with adjunct Professor Mary Fettig, who he continues to have lessons with to this day. “I was really impressed that I was able to take a private lesson at the college before even applying,” recalled Bernardy. 

Bernardy practicing in Syufy Performing Arts Hall Unlike many academic institutions that only offer scholarships to students majoring in the performing arts, Saint Mary’s has four-year, renewable scholarships available to students who major or minor in the performing arts. This arrangement has allowed Bernardy to continue studying his passion while also becoming educated in business and finance. According to Bernardy, Saint Mary’s offers a lot of diversity in classes and provides different ways of thinking. “The way you think in a jazz class has similarities and differences to how you would approach an academic class. It allows you to tie things together, and to see things more clearly. That kind of balance is really helpful in all kinds of subjects,” said Bernardy.

“I wouldn’t be here without the scholarship—and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience the unique learning opportunities at Saint Mary’s,” recalled Bernardy. He also pointed out that the performing arts scholarships help many people in the music program. “A lot of people can’t afford to go to music conservatories and spend over $60,000 a year for a strictly music-based education,” said Bernardy. 

As part of his musical studies, Bernardy is active in the jazz band and the jazz combo, playing both the jazz tenor and alto saxophone. With the structure of Saint Mary’s cross-disciplinary liberal arts education, Bernardy has had a chance to take a variety of classes outside of music and business. “I really like my religion class. It made me think about things differently; and also Seminar,” said Bernardy. What Bernardy likes the most about Seminar is that the classes are small. “You get a sense that people care about your thoughts and opinions. You’re not just another number. I didn’t want to go to a big school where you aren’t taken into account.”

One of Bernardy’s favorite aspects of studying at Saint Mary’s is the chance to have private lessons with the music faculty each semester. “Most of the knowledge I have acquired here at SMC has come from my private lessons with Mary Fettig. It’s 600 minutes of instruction per semester (10 lessons at 60 minutes per lesson). Since working with [Fettig], I’ve completely overhauled my technique and I’ve improved my sound,” said Bernardy. “It has been a blessing to have such a great private teacher.” Bernardy also points out that previously minors were given 45 minutes per lesson, and majors received 60 minutes. Now, both majors and minors can take up to 10 hour-long private lessons per semester in the music department, included as part of their tuition.

Bernardy is weighing quite a few options after graduation. “If I feel really confident in my musical abilities, I might head to the East Coast and do more work as a saxophonist,” said Bernardy. “Or perhaps I’ll further my studies and will get an MBA. Coming to Saint Mary’s was great as it helps to keep my options open.”

The arts are a vibrant part of the Saint Mary’s experience. Support the arts at Saint Mary’s by making a gift today.