Campus & Community

Eggleston’s formula: Hard science and the joy of art

4 min read

As a toddler, Sarah Skye Eggleston ’07 of Quincy House wore a Harvard jumpsuit — the stuff of parental dreams. It worked.

Eggleston worked too. The 21-year-old opera producer, music buff, and math whiz was casting school plays at 8 and at 9 singing with the Boston Children’s Opera. By age 14, Eggleston was in productions with the Lowell House Opera, and at 15 was taking classes at the Harvard Extension School (physics, math, biology). Meanwhile, she ground through Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in three years, taking away a 4.1 GPA.

“Part of me wants to go back and spend all four years there,” said Eggleston of her truncated career at the high school a few blocks from Harvard Yard, where she mixed hard study with playing soccer and singing opera.

In a way, Eggleston will go back. Classes start Sept. 4 in Cambridge schools, and she will step into a classroom to finish her certification as a math teacher. She’s one of just a few Harvard seniors enrolled in UTEP — the University Teacher Education Program, an accelerated teaching certification program.

“A lot of [high school] students don’t take advantage of enough,” said Eggleston — who hopes to pass on an academic ethic that mixes fun and hard work. “You really need to learn for your own purpose.”

To rise along this fast academic trajectory, said Eggleston, it helped to grow up in a bookish household, where learning was honored, and where self-motivation was expected and praise was given. (Both her parents — Betsy and Jim Eggleston — are university librarians.) And it helped to be the youngest in the family, boosted along in art and academics by the earlier success of others. (Her brother Elliott graduated from Columbia in 2004 and her sister Miranda from the Berklee School of Music in 2005.)

At Harvard, Eggleston slogged through the brutal requirements of her joint major — physics/chemistry and mathematics. (“I don’t know how I got through it,” she said. “But people do.”)

Getting through, in part, involved mixing hard science with the joy of art. Beginning in sophomore year, Eggleston took at least one music course every semester — including one this spring in 20th century Italian music. “It’s been wonderful having that variety,” she said of music’s academic solace. “I was able to escape to that world when I’m sick of problem sets — which happens a lot.”

Eggleston’s musical education at Harvard also took a more practical turn. After singing in her freshman year, Eggleston decided she liked life behind the scenes. She has done production work for the Harvard Early Music Society (“L’Orfeo”), the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players (seven productions as a stage manager), and the Dunster House Opera Society (four productions). Eggleston started with Lowell House Opera as a freshman in high school — and has since sung in four productions and produced three. (She co-produced her first opera there, “Don Giovanni,” at age 18.)

Producing is a tough game. Eggleston’s last production stint with Lowell House Opera was for Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” (“The Knight of the Rose”). As producer, she had to keep an eye on all 200 people involved, including 40 cast members and 40 crew. She helped raise the money for the fully staged and fully orchestrated production — as well as manage the costs ($22,000), and turn a cozy profit ($8,000).

“I cared more about doing well as a producer than about getting A’s in my classes,” said Eggleston. Next year, Eggleston will be producer for the Lowell House Opera offering in March, “Turandot,” Puccini’s final work, and — some say — the last flower of classic Italian opera.

“One of the things Harvard taught me the best,” said Eggleston, “was that there are so many options.”