Arts & Humanities

Emma Thackeray Honored as Valedictorian of Caine College of the Arts

By Bryan Stalvey |

Emma Thackeray

Emma Thackeray has been selected as the valedictorian of the Caine College of the Arts. Thackeray’s journey, marked by resilience, dedication and unwavering passion for music, exemplifies the values of excellence and integrity upheld by the college.

Graduating with a bachelor of music in violin performance, Thackeray has studied under the mentorship of Professor Robert Waters and the Fry Street Quartet, resident musicians at the Caine College of the Arts. Since 2022, Thackeray has served as the concertmaster of the USU Symphony Orchestra and as the first violinist of the Caine String Quartet, showcasing her exceptional talent and leadership within the musical community. Her accolades include appearing with the USU Symphony Orchestra in 2023 as a winner of the Concerto Competition and being a two-time first-place winner of the Utah ASTA Chamber Music Competition.

In recognition of her academic and musical excellence, Thackeray was named the 2023-2024 Presser Scholar, an honor awarded to individuals who demonstrate a high level of musical and academic achievement while embodying values of equity and inclusion. Her recent projects have delved into performance psychology, healthy musicianship and the representation of female performers in repertoire, showcasing her multifaceted approach to music and scholarship.

Growing up in a household of educators and musicians, Thackeray’s path to becoming a violinist was deeply ingrained — music and academics were central to her upbringing.

"While I explored other interests like soccer and theater, the violin remained a constant in my life," she said.

A Salt Lake City native, Thackeray’s connection with Utah State University began with a desire for independence and a passion for music.

"I wanted to get away from home and explore new opportunities," Thackeray said.

Meeting the Fry Street Quartet during her youth left a lasting impression. When she auditioned at USU, she felt an immediate sense of welcome, especially from Waters, her mentor.

Waters describes her as possessing "a wonderful combination of intelligence and a compelling, natural musical voice on the violin." Thackeray has demonstrated remarkable progress in her studies and delivered numerous captivating performances. Waters highlights Thackeray’s exceptional work ethic and the unique blend of traits that define her as a student and musician.

"Emma embodies discipline, curiosity, determination, self-awareness, and the ability to not take herself too seriously," he said.

Reflecting on her whirlwind journey in music and education, Thackeray recalled the challenges she faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. She admitted it was a difficult transition from high school to college, compounded by the pandemic's disruptions.

"There were moments when I considered quitting both violin and school altogether,” she said.

However, she persevered, finding solace in her studies and performances.

Throughout her time at Utah State University, Thackeray faced both personal and external challenges, yet emerged as a committed and successful violinist.

Reflecting on Thackeray’s journey, Waters said: "At one point, it was not clear whether she would continue studying music as a serious pursuit. That she has overcome multiple barriers, both external and internal, to emerge as the committed, successful violinist she has become is incredibly impressive to me."

Thackeray’s dedication to her craft and her definition of success as the culmination of small victories propelled her forward.

"Success is subjective," Thackeray said. "For me, it's about accomplishing the little things and small celebrations along the way."

At USU, Thackeray found a supportive community within the music department. She claims the close-knit environment fostered by the faculty and students allowed her to thrive. Waters, in particular, played a pivotal role as her mentor, guiding her not only in violin technique but also in shaping her personal and professional aspirations.

Thackeray’s representation of excellence with integrity resonates deeply with the values of the Caine College of the Arts.

"Emma embodies these qualities to a T," Waters said. "I feel very happy about her moving into the broader musical world as an example of the brand of education and values that we promote."

Thackeray’s appreciation for USU's unique offerings in string performance and chamber music extended to the personalized approach of the program.

"The opportunities for individualized projects and research allowed me to pursue my passions and receive support along the way," she said.

Thackeray’s dedication extends beyond the realm of music; alongside her performance degree, she holds a minor from the Huntsman School of Business. Beyond her academic pursuits, Thackeray enjoys hiking, collage art and exploring culinary arts, showcasing her diverse interests and passions.

Looking ahead, Thackeray plans to continue her academic journey at the University of Texas at Austin, where she will pursue a master of music in violin performance.

"I'm excited to delve deeper into my craft and explore avenues for research in healthy musicianship," she said. "I also want to create as much as possible."

Reflecting on Thackeray’s journey from a young student in the Chamber Days program to her current role as valedictorian, Waters underscores her remarkable accomplishments and resilience.

"Performing with the USU Symphony Orchestra and being a member of the Caine String Quartet are just a few of the great accomplishments she's notched in her time here," he said. "I'm excited for her next chapter as a Master of Music candidate at the University of Texas at Austin."

As Thackeray prepares to bid farewell to Utah State University, her legacy as valedictorian of the Caine College of the Arts serves as a testament to her talent, dedication and unwavering pursuit of excellence.


Bryan Stalvey
Director of Marketing & Communications
Caine College of the Arts


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