This website uses cookies. Learn more via our web privacy policy. For questions, please email
McCullers Center names music theory scholar as its 2023 Smith Fellow - Columbus State University Skip to Main Content

McCullers Center names music theory scholar as its 2023 Smith Fellow

June 29, 2023

Photo of Lauren Irschick with a river scene behind her

Columbus State University’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians has named music theory scholar Lauren Irschick as the winner of its 18th annual Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers. As this year’s writing fellow, she will live and work in Carson McCullers’s childhood home, the Smith-McCullers House, in Columbus this fall.

While most Smith Fellows’ work falls in the creative writing genre, Irschick represents the center’s first fellow with a scholarly emphasis. While in residence at the Smith-McCullers House, she will complete work on her doctoral dissertation — part of her Ph.D. studies in music theory in the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music.

Dr. Nick Norwood headshot“We’re really excited about Lauren Irschick’s residency at the McCullers Center because her work represents both writing and music and because her fascinating study focuses part of its attention on the work of Carson McCullers,” said McCullers Center Director Dr. Nick Norwood (pictured). “I can’t think of a better person to serve as the residency program’s first-ever scholarly writer. All previous writing fellows have been creative writers, most of them fiction writers or poets.”

Irschick’s dissertation, entitled “The Fictionalization of Music Analysis,” supports her investigation into the ways in which techniques of fiction may be applied to music analysis through the study of novels by Carson McCullers, Willa Cather and Richard Powers, among others. 

“It’s incredibly valuable to a scholar to have time and space to write without distraction, and I am particularly looking forward to exploring the archival materials held by the Carson McCullers Center and Columbus State’s Archives & Special Collections,” Irschick said. “My interest in fictional analysis began with ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,’ in which McCullers vividly and sensitively describes Mick Kelly’s first encounter with Beethoven’s ‘Third Symphony.’ I’m very interested in the ways people write about music — especially in how novelists write about music differently from music theorists, and what we music theorists can learn from them.”

A native of North Vancouver, Canada, Irschick holds a master of arts from the University of Rochester (New York) and a bachelor of music from McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). She has taught courses in popular music analysis, collegiate writing, and tonal and post-tonal music theory and aural skills at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences. Her teaching has been recognized by the Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching (Eastman School of Music), the Breadth Fellowship for Warner School and Eastman School Students (University of Rochester), and the Tomlinson Engagement Award for Mentoring (McGill University). 

Smith-McCullers House, home of the McCullers CenterNamed in honor of McCullers’ parents, the Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers was inspired by the author’s experiences at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in Vermont and, especially, the Yaddo Arts Colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. To honor the contribution of these residency fellowships to McCullers’s work, the center awards fellowships for writers to spend time in McCullers’s childhood home (pictured), which serves as the McCullers Center's headquarters.

Awarded on a competitive basis, the fellowship affords writers-in-residence uninterrupted time to dedicate to their work, free from the distractions of daily life and other professional responsibilities as McCullers did when she returned to Columbus to write. Fellows typically do an end-of-residency performance or presentation each November.

Last year’s Smith Fellow was novelist Snowden Wright, author of the novels “American Pop” and “Play Pretty Blues.”

Media contact:
Dr. Nick Norwood, Director, Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, 706.507.8302, 

Related news coverage:
COLUMBUS HISTORY: Carson McCullers explores love and loneliness in Southern Gothic work (Sept. 18, 2023, WRBL-TV)