Education, as Marianthi sees it, should be like a long trip, where you want to visit this place and you are curious about this land. "Let's say I always wanted to go to Japan, but no one sits down and thinks: 'Why do I really want to go to Japan? Where is this coming from? I'm from Greece, but why am I thinking about going to Japan?'" she laughs, and I join, thinking about how funny those questions are in relation to traveling to a different place, yet those are the questions we ask when we are looking at education. She then talks about how we sometimes make choices based on whether we are good at certain things, and one trap we fall into is thinking about mastering something and forget what it is that we enjoy — something that gives meaning to us.
Before traveling to London, Marianthi studied music in Greece. "I wasn't really satisfied or I couldn't really express myself because the studies were so conservative," she remembers, describing those times. "I knew that there has to be something else, something that goes beyond the most traditional harmony, counterpoint." At the same time, she met Dr. Dora Psaltopoulou, a certified music therapist, who introduced her to music therapy. Realizing she can contribute in a different way and use music to help the society, the sound artist started searching for schools that specialized in the field.
While there were great universities in New York, USA, and Paris, France, Marianthi chose to apply to London — New York was expensive, she didn't know French to move to Paris, and Greek students didn't have to pay tuition fees in 1994. Although late to the application process, she packed her suitcase and flew anyway, determined to find a place. Visiting a couple of schools, every single one of them required musicians to pass exams. Thinking she wouldn't be able to attend that year, the composer met a flutist from Brazil, who convinced her otherwise. "Why do you have to wait for a year when clearly you don't need to take those exams — you know everything about harmony and counterpoint. What are you waiting for?" he asked her.
Finding a special degree for students outside of the UK at University of London, Goldsmiths College, Marianthi went straight to their office to speak to Sadie Harrison, one of the composition faculty members. "I waited for many hours, and told her I'd like to join the program for a year," she tells me. "I wanted to be very honest that I'm interested in studying music therapy, [which wasn't offered there], so I want to transfer to City University." Sadie appreciated her honesty, and gave an exercise in harmony for Marianthi to complete. When asked about Stravinsky, the young musician said that she never heard this name before — in Greece, the music history stops right before him. "She was really shocked, but I told her that is the reason why I had to leave my country: I knew there has to be something more," Marianthi says. Even though the university was done with admissions, she entered the program.
You have to ask yourself questions and talk to people, even strangers. Don't be afraid to make big changes. "I never regretted [the] drastic changes in my life," the professor states. Because this is where education begins…
Stay tuned for Marianthi's opinion on how the education system needs to change.