Elsa Dougherty

Elsa Dougherty '20



Degree and Class Year

BA ’20


Flushing, Michigan





What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Curious, Maggie’s, Accepting

Life After L&C, January 2022 Update

What have you been doing since graduation?

After graduation, I did a year of study at the Institute for Contemporary Performance, which is the Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s interdisciplinary training program for contemporary theatre. That was a really great experience where I was able to make new work with a really talented group of artists. I’ve also started working professionally in the Portland performance scene. I was a collaborator on an original show titled Bluebeard at Bag&Baggage Productions, composed a short children’s musical about climate change for Oregon Children’s Theatre, was hired as a section leader at Westminster Presbyterian, and even came back to work at L&C on the theatre department’s main stage production of Passion Play. This spring, I’ll also be working with the music department on their Sondheim revue and with the theatre department on Medea.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for career?

I’ve always wanted to be really passionate about just one thing. I came to L&C to be an ethnomusicologist (still a dream), then was pulled into classical voice, then musical theatre, then devised theatre. I was hoping one would stick out to me as “absolutely, no doubt about it, this is 1000% the thing I want to do with my life,” but that never happened. I genuinely loved them all. I guess L&C prepared me for working professionally in the arts by allowing me to try everything. That flexibility led me to really diverse professional opportunities.

Now that you’ve been out of college for a while, what would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

Make time for rest.

What are your career goals?

Does “make it through the pandemic” count as a career goal? Other than that, I would like to keep making new work. I am interested in the relationship between tradition and experimentation. I really think it boils down to what they teach you in day one of music theory: “You have to learn the rules in order to break them.” I think that applies to everything. As far as a career goes, I would like to be a teacher-artist—someone who makes their own work, (with a theatre company perhaps!), sings a Verdi gig on the weekend, then rolls out of bed on Monday for my 9 a.m. class. I’m committed to this interdisciplinary thing. Who knows what will happen?

Life at L&C

What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?

I couldn’t pick a favorite class. What’s really great about being a music major is that all my classes work together. So for example, what I am learning in my Theory I class with Lance Inouye helps me in my piano lessons because now I am starting to see the whole puzzle (so to speak), whereas before I was just dealing with one piece at a time. Another example is Professor Aaron Beck’s History of Western Music class. Throughout the semester we have been discussing early music and it’s so cool because I get to learn about it in his class and then actually sing it in another!

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

The small and beautiful campus really pulled me in. I also had a really positive experience when I came to audition for a music scholarship which was the ultimate decision maker for me.

Why did you choose to be photographed in the music section of the library?

I chose to be photographed in the music section of the library because that was the first place where I felt like a real college student. My first big paper was on Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and I remember spending hours in that section scanning book after book, just literally sitting right in the middle of the aisle with books piled around me, and it was such a great time.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

My bed.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?

The sign at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It’s so snazzy and festive!

What’s your best Lewis & Clark memory so far?

The first Lewis & Clark orchestra concert really blew me away. One of the pieces they played was Night on Bald Mountain and I remember just repeatedly hitting my friend’s knee and grabbing her arm (Sorry, Allie!) because it was so good. That piece is such a bop anyway but they played it so well and I just couldn’t contain my excitement! I remember going up to my friend, who is a really excellent trombone player, and hugging him and congratulating him repeatedly because I was so amazed. We barely knew each other at that point but luckily he didn’t think I was too weird and we ended up becoming really good friends!

How do you manage stress?

A few Red Vines and a good jam sesh always help me.

Do you have a job on campus? If so, how do you fit work into your schedule?

Yes, I actually have two jobs on campus and one off campus. On campus I work in the registrar’s office (i.e., the best office) and take notes for a committee that meets weekly. Off campus, I have a job singing in the choir at St. James Lutheran Church. Fitting these jobs into my schedule was a challenge at first but like everything else, once I found my rhythm and got used to a busy schedule, it just worked. Also, I’m really fortunate to have great supervisors at all my jobs who make going to work enjoyable. When you can have fun at work it doesn’t seem like a chore!