Education Without Boundaries
Originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Cuong Nguyen started learning English in the sixth grade. At that point, he says, he never considered the possibility of coming to the United States.
Much to his surprise, he was given the opportunity to attend a Catholic high school in New Jersey, where it became evident that he really preferred dancing and making music over other subjects he was learning in his honors program.
So he transferred to a performing arts high school in Vermont. During his senior year he dedicated himself to dancing, with a focus on hip-hop. Then, he says, “I thought if I dance, I should also at least be able to make some music.” He soon started studying music theory and using computers to make music.
Following a teacher’s recommendation and the endorsement of a classmate, Nguyen applied to Goucher. “I was ready to challenge myself,” he says.
He auditioned for and impressed the Dance Department, but when he got to Goucher he also returned to exploring computer music and multimedia. Outside of class he was also learning different digital arts techniques, particularly video production, and his work turned out well.
It was then that he thought, “I should just go for it,” and he created his very own interdisciplinary major combining his three loves: dance, computer music, and film.
He calls dance the art of movement, music the art of sound, and painting the art of colors. “Recently I realized that dance is like vision using movements. Music is using movement to make sound. Every discipline is guided by and shares the concept of movement. You just need to learn the movements of every discipline,” he says. “But I know that sounds really biased coming from a dancer.”
He says that with every course he takes here, the professors are all really knowledgeable and impressive. “I research my classes before I take them, but they’re always unique and different. They’re never what I thought. They open me to a new dimension every time I take a new class at Goucher.”
“I didn’t have the guts to dream I could be studying the things I’m studying,” he adds.
Nguyen’s broad-ranging interests make him a very busy, very visible figure on campus. He performs with Goucher’s Dance Department, and he presents with Pizzazz, the musical theater club. Occasionally he performs with and helps instruct the Hip-Hop Club, and he does breaking and popping. “I consider that my sport,” he says, though he does also play basketball to condition for dance.
He is also a recordist, which means he records concerts for the Music Department. “I get paid to go to concerts I would like to go to anyway,” he says.
Nguyen also has earned a lot of attention with his impressive range of skills. A video production he created for class was chosen to represent Goucher’s Department of Communication at the Emerging Student Filmmakers Screening at the Creative Alliance, a nonprofit arts center in Baltimore, this past spring. He won the Friends of Goucher Dance Scholarship and the Phi Beta Kappa Brooke Pierce Award for his music album “III,” consisting of 16 tracks that he composed and produced. Additionally, a faculty member of Goucher’s Dance Department commissioned Nguyen’s music for choreography that was performed at the fall 2012 Dance Ensemble Concert.
“Because of my interdisciplinary major I have gotten to try a lot of things,” he says. “My belief is that anyone can do anything. I really believe that here at Goucher. I am the testimony to that.”