Never Give Up

by Martha Horst

Photo by Aaro Keipi (

When I came to Stanford in 1985, I thought I was going to be a chemical engineer.  Within five minutes of arriving on campus, however, I found the music building.  It was home for me.  It was where I was meant to be.

I switched majors my sophomore year and ended up completing a double major in Values, Technology, Science and Society and Music.  Through the support of my professors, I went to graduate school and earned a Ph.D. in music theory and composition.  There were not a lot of women composers then and there are not a lot now.   I never let that bother me.

Currently, I am a professor of music theory and composition at Illinois State University.  It took me a long time to realize my dream of obtaining a tenure track job in academics; I never gave up on my dream.  It sounds trite, but it is an important piece of advice for any young person.

My job involves teaching young composers and music majors and writing music.  Currently, I live in Helsinki, Finland with my husband and two young children.  We are both on sabbatical.  I am balancing my time between writing pieces for various music groups and taking care of my small children.  It has been a wonderful experience – something that I did not even dream of doing when I was an undergraduate at Stanford.

When I graduated Stanford, I dreamed about what I wanted to do with my life, but had no idea how I would do it.  I followed that dream and never gave up.  Although at times I only had Ramen noodles in the cupboard, I kept on pursuing my dream of being a full time composer, professor and mother.  I am so glad that I never gave up.