When she was admitted into CU Boulder, Isabella Fincher enrolled in one pragmatic major, economics, and one passion major, classical guitar performance. A few weeks before the semester started, one of those majors was replaced with journalism.
Driven by her passions for music and writing, she quickly became involved in various organizations on and off campus. She wrote an honors thesis focused on media representation of female guitarists and studied under world-renowned guitarist Sharon Isbin at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Her dedication to both academics and personal growth has culminated in a number of awards.
Fincher is now graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Bachelor of Music in Classical Guitar Performance, along with a business minor and certificates in music entrepreneurship and music theory. Additionally, she has been recognized as the College of Media, Communication and Information's William W. White Outstanding Graduate. This award is bestowed to the student graduating with the highest GPA in CMCI. She has also been named the College of Music’s Outstanding Graduating Senior, an award based on academic merit and strong records of musicianship, service and leadership.
"Graduating from college represents empowerment and self-determination through hard work, especially for women from diverse backgrounds," Fincher said, who identifies as a mixed-race Japanese American. “I’m so inspired every day by how they [my mother and her sisters] have persevered and carved out their own American dreams.”
Her grandmother, who first came to the U.S. from Japan, encouraged all four of her daughters—Fincher’s mother and aunts—to pursue their education, and this encouragement was passed onto her as well.
Fincher has had quite the undergraduate experience at CU Boulder. In addition to being a high achieving student in multiple programs, she's received a number of awards including: the Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation’s Gerke Collegiate Award, the College of Music’s Outstanding Junior Award and the Presser Foundation’s Undergraduate Scholar Award.
Throughout her time at CU, she found many ways to meld her love of storytelling and journalism with her passion for the guitar and music. She covered the arts beat while writing for the CU Independent—where she later served as managing editor—and had a regular column in the classical music blog Sharps & Flatirons.
"As a student journalist, I primarily covered the local arts scene, drawing from my previous experiences with theater, art, film and music in high school," she said. “It has been such a great opportunity to write about the vibrant arts and culture scene in Boulder and the greater Denver area, especially highlighting the stories of diverse LGBTQ+ and BIPOC creatives.”
As an honors student, she investigated how female guitarists are portrayed by the American music press and was invited to discuss her findings at both the 2023 National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the 73rd annual International Communication Association (ICA) Conference.
“My project, ‘An examination of mainstream media’s treatment of female guitarists,’ was inspired by my own personal experiences of the barriers faced by women in guitar,” said Fincher. “It was very interesting to see how the music press has contributed to the erasure and marginalization of women in rock and blues over time, an issue that stems from the patriarchal structure of rock music culture and the music industry.”
She was also a member of the College of Music’s Diverse Musicians Alliance (DiMA). She explained that this group was particularly impactful for her because she was able to find camaraderie with fellow students from diverse backgrounds and advocating for marginalized, BIPOC composers and musicians is important to her. In fact, her senior recital features the work of three female composers, in part inspired by her work with DiMA’s Persevering Legacy project.
In fall 2023, Fincher is planning to study under René Izquierdo at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a master’s student in classical guitar performance. While there, she plans to continue working as a freelance journalist focusing on the arts.
Until then, she’s grateful for all the experiences she’s had in the classroom and beyond.
“I am aiming for a portfolio career where I can perform and teach classical guitar and work as a freelance writer,” Fincher said. “After the ICA conference, I will be working to get my honors thesis published in a research journal. I’m really excited to see where this research will take me and how I can contribute to raising awareness and addressing the racial and gender inequities of the music press.”