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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Middlebury holds memorial for Arianna Kamal ’27

Arianna Kamal ’27 and her parents, Teena and Rakesh Kamal, were found dead in their home in Dover, Mass. on Dec. 28, 2023. 

Kamal arrived at Middlebury this fall after graduating in spring 2023 from Milton Academy, a private boarding school in Milton, Mass. 

Soon after coming to campus, Kamal became a member of Women in Computer Science and MiddMyco, a foraging club on campus, as shared in an email to the Middlebury community on Dec. 29 from President Laurie Patton and Vice President of Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka. Kamal was also a new member of the Middlebury College Choir. 

“In only one semester, she was meteoric in her engagement,” Mark Orten, dean of spiritual and religious life told The Campus. 

Around 135 people filled the chapel for a memorial gathering on Monday, Jan. 22, organized with input from Kamal’s friends, family and acquaintances, Orten said. The college choir sang “When The Earth Stands Still” by Don MacDonald and “Peace I Leave With You” by Amy Beach at the memorial. 

Assistant Professor of Music Danielle Simon and Assistant Professor of Education Studies Melissa Hammerle shared their remembrances. Students Arai Hardy ’27, Owen Kelliher ’27.5 and Anabella Georg-Hyun ’27 spoke about their distinct connections to Kamal. 

“Unlike when students pass away after being here for a longer period of time, her communities had not yet gotten to know each other,” Orten said. “So it was really wonderful to hear how so many different disparate communities experienced her as a remarkably engaged, intelligent, stylish, funny young woman.”

A Boston Globe article published on Jan. 9 remembering Kamal quoted her boyfriend, who asked his full name not be used. The boyfriend described how he and Kamal bonded by sending each other song recommendations; they stargazed and read poems together on campus this fall. The last poem they read together was “Mysteries, Yes” by Mary Oliver, which opens with the line, “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood,” The Globe reported. 

“We always talked about how we were so lucky to have met so early in college — that we had so much time together,” he wrote in an email to The Boston Globe.  “No one saw this coming. I am still shocked every day. Please hold your loved ones as tight as you can.”

In an interview with The Campus, Hammerle spoke about the special attention and focus Kamal brought to  “Mindfulness in Education” this past fall. 

“As I reflect on her, she had a really strong presence, and she had a beautiful inner life to her,” Hammerle said.  

Shortly after students returned to campus for J-Term, Hammerle gathered with her first-year seminar students to be together in the wake of Kamal’s death. For Hammerle and her students, engaging in a collaborative reminiscence was a rich activity.

“We had so many beautiful memories of the quality of her presence, how clear and quiet she was in class, and how extremely intentional she was when she spoke,” she said. 

 

As Kamal’s first academic advisor at Middlebury, Hammerle bore witness to her aspirations beyond Middlebury and plans for the future. 

“She wanted to be a neuroscientist, but a passion of hers was opera, and she was incredibly excited about the opportunity to travel to Italy to study and perform opera,” Hammerle said. 

Hammerle’s final memory of Kamal is her reading at the Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas service where the College Choir was also performing, during which Hammerle observed Kamal’s graceful presence.

 “I remember her being very happy to be singing on that particular case, she was just so joyful. In all these different ways that I’m talking about, she accessed joy. And she shared it in a very quiet, deep way,” she said.

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Kamal’s capacity for connection will be missed by the college’s choir, a group for which Kamal was a prominent contributor during the fall semester. 

Jeff Buettner, Christian A. Johnson professor of music and director of choral activities,   shared his memory of Kamal as a singer and choral figure under his direction. 

“A lot of us came to appreciate very quickly her passion for musical and interpersonal collaboration. She made fast friends among the choir and was an inspiring, captivating musician and fellow chorister,” Buettner said. 

For Buettner, Kamal’s impulse for organizing and propelling a musical community was invigorating and inspiring.

“When I think about the fall semester, I think about how much joy I felt and could see other people feeling when we were together making music,” he said. “I could always look forward to a choir rehearsal with Aria, and I could reliably count on her to be forthcoming and constructive when it came to what we were doing creatively.”

Kamal’s passion for and interest in opera and classical music — music that emphasizes the primacy and range of the human voice — was remarkable and a rarity, Buettner added. 

“It’s always kind of edifying to think that here’s one among us, who really loves to sing and wants to bring that love of singing to the people around her. She would sing with all of her attention,” he said.

Buettner spoke about carrying the memory of Kamal forward into future choir rehearsals and using the memory of her dedication to the group as a beacon for organizing the group’s future activities. 

“It’s a way to emotionally navigate this tragedy in a way that is love-filled and joy-filled, and endeavoring to remember her in that way. I am going to remember what she brought to the ensemble and let it inform what I bring to the ensemble the next time I meet them.” 

Buettner mentioned how, in being an ensemble dedicated to the making of choral music, choirs are uniquely missioned and historically counted upon to be spaces for grieving, commemoration and remembrance.  

For Buettner and for the college choir, the idea of getting together to sing in memory of Kamal was immediately present after hearing about her death. 

“I think the impulse to gather and the impulse to remember Aria together is extraordinary in this case,” he said. 

Gregory Marcinik ’25.5, a friend of Kamal’s and member of the broader music community at Middlebury, spoke with The Campus about his recollections of Kamal. Like Buettner and Hammerle, Marcinik recalled Kamal’s passion for music, but also remembered her as not only a musician but also a friend and a fellow student at the college. 

“She was pretty funny, which a lot of people may not have known about her. She was weird in a kind of fun and quirky way, and she had a good sense of humor and really good music taste,” he said. 

Marcinik commented on her impressive dedication to opera music, and shared his sadness that he would never have the opportunity to see her in future music classes at Middlebury. 

The college choir intends to acknowledge Kamal’s death and celebrate her life in some form during their spring performance. After her time here, Kamal left an indelible impact on the friends, professors and groups with whom she spent her fall semester at Middlebury.

“She saw all the good, and all the beauty, and had a wonderful gift in that she could make you see it, too,” Kamal’s boyfriend told The Globe. “She truly made you feel like the only person in the world when she spoke to you, love and light just radiated from her. She could hold her own in even the most niche topics of conversation and was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”

Editors’ Note: Managing Editor Katie Futterman ’24 contributed reporting.


Cole Chaudhari

Cole Chaudhari '26 (he/him) is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer. He previously served as a News and Local section writer.   

Cole is majoring in History and English & American Literatures. This semester he is interning at a venture capital firm.   

In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dogs, socializing with friends, and shedding tears at YouTube compilations of the best moments in American sports history. 


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