Derek Dittmar '16
Randolph-Macon College student Derek Dittmar ’16 is a communication studies and arts management major with a focus on music. The Raleigh, North Carolina native chose Randolph-Macon after touring the campus with his father.
At Home at R-MC“I didn’t really know where I wanted to go to college,” says Dittmar, who submitted applications to several colleges when he was a high-school senior. On a blustery day in December 2011 he made his decision. Driving home with his father, the two decided to pull off in Ashland and walk around the campus.
“I was walking around and imagining myself at R-MC,” says Dittmar. “Eating at the dining hall, or hanging out with friends—all of that ran through my mind, and I fell in love with Randolph-Macon. My dad and I stopped at Ashland Coffee and Tea and I called my mom to tell her the good news.” Several weeks later, Dittmar received a postcard from Admissions congratulating him on his acceptance to the college. “It was a photo of what my namesake brick would look like along the Janet Harvey Trivette Alumni Walkway,” he recalls. “That felt like a ‘green light,’ and I was so excited.”
A Musician at Heart“I’m a big music person,” says Dittmar, who chose his majors after careful consideration. “I was drawn toward an arts management major after getting some good advice from Music Professor James Doering about future careers. I am also a member of R-MC’s Franklin Debating Society, and I love communication studies, so I decided to add that major as well.”
Dittmar, who is passionate about listening to and creating music, is legally blind. He was born with a genetic condition and uses Braille, talking computers, and assistive software for school work—and for writing music.
“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11, and I wrote my first song on top of a mountain in Napa, California, in 2012,” he says. “That started me on this whirlwind journey—cranking songs out, playing all of the time, coming up with new ideas. In spring 2013, I released a three-song EP on iTunes called “The Colors of Spring,” which I recorded during spring break. The songs kept coming, and I thought, hey, here’s a record.”Using his twin brother’s studio, Dittmar finished recording his first CD—a collection of eight original songs and one cover song—in August 2013. He describes the songs as “stories of love, loss, war, disability, and finding some way to put the pieces back together.”
Student LifeDittmar serves as chairmen of R-MC’s Music Artists Organization, a group of student-musicians who put on performances at the college. He is also an Honors class representative and a Presidential Scholarship recipient.
In January Term (J-term) 2014, Dittmar will travel to Washington, D.C. and Japan in conjunction with Doering’s Film Music in Japan course. Students will tour important historical and cultural sites, attend musical and theatrical performances, and visit a film studio.
“I’m looking forward to all of these amazing opportunities,” he says. “I have always wanted to study abroad, and look forward to putting myself out of my comfort zone.”
Recently, Dittmar worked with Director of Disability Services Jack Trammell to organize D-Day (Disability Day) on campus.
“It was a day during which students got an opportunity to experience what it is like to live with a variety of physical disabilities,” explains Dittmar, “from wheeling a chair across campus to using a cane for navigation. D-day was my brainchild, and I worked with Professor Trammell regarding logistics. It was a huge success.”
Dittmar is the recipient of the 2013 Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Leadership Man of Vision award, which he received for his work with minorities on campus.
“Our blind student got the Man of Vision award,” he says, laughing. “I'll take it!”
Future PlansDittmar, who loves the sense of community at Randolph-Macon, hopes to pursue a law degree, possibly in disability law.
“I’d like to eventually consider a doctorate in communications and teach about disability communication,” he says. “Though it goes without saying, music will always be a huge part of my life.”
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