The Halfway House girls cel­e­brate after the com­pe­tition. Hannah Cote | The Collegian

Tucked away on Oak street, con­cealed from the road by mul­tiple houses, lies the Halfway House – a hidden house of authentic com­munity, con­ta­gious laughter, and lots of music.

Halfway House is home to seven senior women, all who have known each other since freshman year. The com­munity of the house sprung from their love for each other, and has been strengthened by their passion for music.

This past weekend, four of them com­peted and won awards in the con­certo com­pe­tition. Though they con­tin­u­ously compete alongside one another, their friendship has allowed them to grow closer with one another as they pursue music. 

Although an obvious divide between coffee and tea sparked the early morning con­ver­sation, pianist Anne Ziegler – the only coffee-drinker in the house – and sopranos Zsanna Bodor and Michaela Stiles, both with tea mugs in hand, all piled onto the living room couch to share their story.

“We really just love wel­coming people into our home,” Bodor said. Bodor won the Aria com­pe­tition with her ren­dition of “Prendi” by Donizetti. “There’s a certain atmos­phere here that is very rare among friend groups. We just love having people over and joining our community.”

Halfway House is home to many dif­ferent musical interests and pas­sions, including voice, piano, violin, viola, and even harp. Stiles even bought a $40 piano off of Facebook to have in the house.

“There’s always music in our house,” said senior Emma Dawe. Dawe sang her way to victory with a selection from Handel’s “Rinaldo.” “Every single one of us is involved in music to some degree. It’s such a love for all of us that there’s always someone lis­tening to music, or often it’s someone singing to them­selves, or playing our out-of-tune piano.”

Ziegler often prac­ticed her winning per­for­mance of Gershwin’s Con­certo in F on those very ivories.

Music has shaped the culture of the house, which offers open invi­ta­tions to music nights and house con­certs throughout the semester. 

“We’ve all seen each other as musi­cians, and so we all know each other really, really well through music,” Ziegler said. “We’ve seen each other grow and get a lot better, both per­sonally and musically.”

Though music has been a cen­ter­piece of the house, many of the women saw them­selves giving music up and only pur­suing their intended aca­demic major. 

“I thought I was giving music up by coming here,” Bodor said. “I tell people this a lot, but I thought by choosing Hillsdale I was not going down the path of music because I came here pri­marily for the aca­d­emics and for the com­munity.  I never thought I would become a music major and spend the majority of my time here doing music.”

Whether the women are per­forming solos, joining each other in duos or trios, or accom­pa­nying one other, the spirit of cel­e­bration and inspi­ration beats out any natural competition.

“We cel­e­brate each other a lot,” Stiles said. “It’s like we’re com­pet­itive in a very uplifting space where we want everyone to perform well.” Stiles com­peted and won with a piece by Gimènez. 

The day after the con­certo com­pe­tition, the women loved and admired seeing each other win awards, but also felt the dif­fi­culty of seeing others not win.

“In a sense, the com­pet­i­tiveness has grown, simply because, as musi­cians, we spur one another on,” Ziegler said. “It’s just inspiring rather than com­pet­itive. It feels natural to keep in step with your friends. Friendship comes first and always will come first.”

At nearly every concert, the women of Halfway House and their friends are a con­stant support for everyone’s per­for­mances. 

“It felt less like I was com­peting against my friends than like I was just going and doing this thing alongside them,” Dawe said. “We were all so excited to be there for each other in that.”

Throughout the dozens of recitals on campus, there is always a group of friends in the audience with flowers and applause ready to cheer each other on. 

“At the end of the day, you spend so much time in a practice room and you just want to share your music,” Bodor said. “You just want to share the gift because it’s sup­posed to be a gift.”

Stiles agreed with Bodor, and said that this mindset of grat­itude and gifting music has deepened her own faith.

“We pray for each other a lot, and I think for a lot of us when we approach music it’s from this mindset of giving a unique gift,” Stiles said. “Even though we’re com­peting in the same com­pe­tition, I always know that we’re all praying for each other.”

Music is so pow­erful in that way because it helps us realize our humanity, Stiles said. Our end is to be with God and through music we provide a platform of beauty that words cannot express, Ziegler said.

“God is the Artist, and we get to par­tic­ipate in that through our art, we’re co-cre­ators in a way,” Bodor said. “I would say one thing for me that’s grown in my view of music is that I see this artistic aspect of sharing in God’s beauty, and it blows my mind.”

Through every cel­e­bration, per­for­mance, and con­ver­sation, the women of Halfway House have created an ever­lasting culture of music that will carry them far through every musical venture they have in the future.