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
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
Dittmar 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)
“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!”
Dittmar, 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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