Music is My Career, Engineering is My Hobby!
From concrete formwork construction to a music doctorate scholar, Isaac Raven ’15 has put his SCU degrees to work!
By Catherine Joy ’23
Bruno Ruviaro, Associate Professor and chair of the Music department at Santa Clara University, is no stranger to students from the business and engineering schools coming to him with an interest in taking music classes. Some even decide to add Music as a second major. Ruviaro always tells them about a previous student, Isaac Raven ’15, and his incredible career pivot after discovering where his true passion lies.
Raven graduated from Santa Clara in 2015 with a double degree in Civil Engineering and Music. Upon graduation, he planned to just keep music as a beloved hobby, and worked in concrete formwork construction, a subfield of Civil Engineering, around California for two years. Still attending SCU jazz ensemble performances for much of this time, he realized he felt unfulfilled in a job with no creative outlet and needed a change. Raven decided he wanted to study classical saxophone, applied for a Masters of Music at several schools, ended up choosing the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and graduated from the program in 2019. He taught students and ‘gig-ed’ throughout his master’s, and is now working towards his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Teaching and Learning at USC Thornton.
Professor Ruviaro recently caught up with Raven and talked about his journey. The following conversation has been edited for context and clarity.
How did your music journey evolve after leaving SCU?
I was able to use USC Thornton as a ‘lilypad’ and eye-opener to adjust to what the Los Angeles music lifestyle is. I hold classical saxophone so near to my heart—it’s such an amazing flavor of music, but it’s a ‘late bloomer’ instrument, meaning that it’s hardly ever seen in traditional orchestral formats which can make finding work hard. In my second year of my master’s, I began taking Jazz Saxophone classes to become more well rounded, since there are more scores written to incorporate that style, as well as opportunities to gig in jazz clubs and combos in and around Los Angeles. I was figuring out if I wanted to do a Doctorate in Saxophone Performance, but wasn’t sure about how many opportunities I’d have to play in the area, and ended up pursuing one in Musical Education, since my end goal is collegiate teaching in music. During the pandemic, when I was unable to perform at my usual venues, I began to grow closer with music education and teaching. I had no choice but to teach online, and that sort of sprouted into me pursuing a doctorate degree in music education. Additionally, I began writing and composing on my own at home for my saxophone quartet when the pandemic hit. It’s fun to write specifically for people when you know their personalities and what they like to play.
What makes you most excited about music and your doctorate program?
The greatest musical gift I can give to someone is education, and I love helping students learn this beautiful language, how to express it, and how to make it their own. Performances are amazing, but being able to teach someone who is new to music and wants to learn is unmatched. My doctorate program thus far has been amazing, challenging, and inspiring—I feel very balanced, and I’m exactly where I need to be. The DMA at Thornton has provided me the opportunities to conduct research (which is the majority of the program), but also continue to compose and perform, as they are required elective fields as a part of the program. Thornotn does a good job creating well-rounded students, and I am very happy with my progress so far.
How did your undergraduate experience through the SCU Music Department influence your career trajectory?
I hold Santa Clara very close to my heart. I would not have been inspired to pick up a Music degree in addition to my Civil Engineering one if not for the faculty there who were so supportive of me. In fact, I started out as a music minor at SCU in my first two years, but was encouraged by numerous faculty to go for the double major. Everything I have now in my DMA is thanks to the faculty at SCU’s music department. Who knows where I’d be now if not for my Music major? SCU teaches you how to collaborate with other musicians, and the best music arrives from those deep connections. Bruno Ruviaro, and so many other faculty at SCU, were an integral part of my journey.
Students majoring within SCU’s Music Department end up in a wide spectrum of postgraduate paths. Ruviaro claims that regardless of if these Broncos pursue music as a career or not, they still possess a keen musical mind that shines through in any job. “The best gift that Santa Clara can give these students is helping establish music as a piece of themselves,” he says.
Today, in addition to his Doctorate work, Isaac Raven teaches private lessons for twenty two musicians of a variety of ages, writes music for his saxophone quartet and for small chamber ensembles, and creates other arrangements for graduate students at USC Thornton. His piece titled “The Seven Deadly Sins” for solo alto saxophone and piano accompaniment was recently debuted at Thornton School of Music. Raven is currently pursuing multiple research studies which include how Imposter Syndrome affects First Generation College Music Students; the social and psychological constructs of peer collaboration in creative music such as composition; and exploring fandom through identity, gender roles, and a sense of belonging in Anime Music Video (AMV) creations.
“When people ask why I dropped my civil engineering work, I always tell them that music is my career, and civil engineering is my hobby!” Raven says. “It’s a permanent switch, and I’m never going back.”
Learn more about Isaac Raven’s work and watch his performances on his website.