People always say to study what you love in college, not what you think will make you money or provide you with a steady job, because you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life. For people with multiple areas of interest, that can get a little tricky. But junior Janelle Barrow at the University of Iowa has made it work. Majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in vocal music, Barrow finds a ways to balance it all.
Barrow grew up in a musical household, learning to love it from a young age through watching her parents. Barrow was always looking for a crowd to perform for, and her mother would accompany her on the piano. Her parents also led music worship at her church and would hold rehearsals in their home.
“It was so exciting to watch the musicians set up the guitars and drums. Sometimes they would let us play a little,” Barrow said. “My parents would put us to bed and then go downstairs to practice. I specifically remember sneaking out of bed and laying at the top of the stairs so I could listen and sing along with the music.”
Barrow’s parents put her in voice lessons right away, and she carried her love of music on into high school where she participated in school choirs, a cappella groups and show choir. She began doing musical theater her sophomore year of high school with her school’s production of “The Music Man,” and her senior year, she landed one of the lead roles of Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls.”
Since then, Barrow has found ways to carry her love of performance into college without being in a university choir. Choosing to minor in vocal music has given her an outlet, as well as participating in community theater. Throughout the course of her time at college, Barrow has been in the productions “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Wonderful Town” and played the lead role of Cinderella in Roger’s and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” as well as Amber in “Hairspray.”
“The feeling I get on stage is indescribable,” Barrow said. “You practice for weeks and pour all of yourself into creating this character and then finally get to perform. The moment I hit that final note and the crowd erupts in applause, a surge of energy shoots through my body, and the biggest smile you've ever seen spreads across my face. And it’s that feeling that keeps me going back for more.”
Being in these shows as well as being an engineering student can sometimes be stressful for Barrow, as these shows can take up about 25 hours a week of rehearsals. But Barrow has learned to balance it, sometimes bringing homework with her to rehearsal to work on in between scenes. And though the stress can sometimes be discouraging, Barrow doesn’t intend to stop.
“I'm not sure what show lies next for me, but I can assure you there will be many many more,” Barrow said. “Auditions for "Legally Blonde" are in a few weeks so there’s a good chance you'll be able to find me there.”