Cellist pursues double major in music and geology

Pacific Geology Department field-trip at Yosemite

Amy Wheeler '23 (black shirt, in the middle of the photo) with Pacific geology students during a field trip to the Yosemite National Park and the Eastern Sierra in the fall of 2021.

Amy Wheeler ’23 found the best of two worlds at University of the Pacific. Rather than making a hard choice between her love of music and passion for the environment, she is pursuing both by double majoring in music and geological and environmental sciences. 

“It's really just been perfect because I love both of them so much,” Wheeler said. “I love all the classes and the work involved and so, it's just really made my life at Pacific so great because I get to do both.” 

Wheeler grew up in a musical family, and she considered studying cello performance in college. She learned about Pacific’s Conservatory from the principal at the school where her mother teaches music. He graduated from the Conservatory. 

“He had nothing but praise for Pacific,” recalled Wheeler. “He said it should absolutely go on my list because going through that school changed his life. And I thought, how could I say no to that.” 

But music is not the only passion in Wheeler’s life. Originally from Bend, Oregon, she grew up surrounded by mountains, lakes and hiking trails. She has always been curious about the natural world and how people and nature could co-exist without harmful consequences. So, when she was applying for college, it was a 50-50 toss-up between music and geology. Wheeler initially chose music. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and she had a lot of time to think.

“I realized that I would always have that ‘what if’ question about science and biology and environmental science. So, I knew I had to pursue that as well,” Wheeler said. “I talked to my Pacific advisers about getting a double major and how that would work out and I added Bachelor of Arts in geological and environmental sciences in my sophomore year.” 

That additional academic commitment resulted in a heavy course load for the music performance major who was already busy with classes, rehearsals and performances. Fortunately, she was able to change her music performance degree to a Bachelor of Arts in music, a highly adaptable degree designed to connect music to the liberal arts and sciences.

Wheeler credits her academic advisers and faculty for helping her create an academic path that fulfills her interests but also sets her up for her future professional goals. 

“My advisers have been really helpful,” said Wheeler. “They have communicated with each other when I’ve had a class conflict. But also, I think people get excited when they hear about trying to mesh two different ideas. My cello instructor loves that I’m doing geology now. Having professors who are interested in what you're doing is really helpful because then you feel like you can talk to them about both sides of your education.”

With equal interests in music and geology, Wheeler’s next challenge is deciding on a career. She is considering environmental assessments and remediation as well as becoming a music teacher. Whatever her future professional career might be, at Pacific she has learned it is possible to pursue such seemingly different passions as music and science without giving up either. 

Amy Wheeler performs Bloch's "Prayer"