Aspire Student Spotlight: Helen Pappas

helen pappas

This month’s Aspire Student Spotlight is shining on Helen Pappas, a 22-year-old violinist at the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts.

Pappas is a senior majoring in music performance. She grew up and attended high school in Germany, then traveled United States to attend college.

Throughout her career as a violinist at IU South Bend, Pappas has performed with the Euclid Quartet, IUSB Philharmonic, and in several school of the arts plays including Swan Lake and Pippin.

Most recently, Pappas was a featured performer for October’s “First Wednesday” concert held in the fifth floor atrium of the Schurz Library. The event was part of a series that allows music students to perform for the campus public once a month. She played Prokofiev’s Violin Concert No. 2.

“I think it’s kind of a cool thing because it’s out where the students are,” Pappas says of the program’s concept. “Even though it’s pretty informal, it takes the music where the people are.”

She’s especially interested in music history. A highlight of her experience at IU South Bend was attending a conference in New Orleans hosted by the American Musicological Society. There, she had the chance to hear professionals talk about their theories and research on music history.

“To me it was impressive how people kind of nerd out about music history, and how much there is to it that I didn’t realize before,” Pappas says. “It was just really exciting to be around so many people who all love the same type of thing.”

Pappas isn’t just a music student. She’s an usher for the school of the arts’ box office, and also a peer mentor for the school of the arts. That means she spends time helping freshmen and incoming arts students with orientation, advising, and making a smooth transition into college life.

“I’m glad I got the chance to do peer mentoring because it gets you out of the practice room and helps you relate to people,” she says.

As a senior, the future is on her mind. Pappas says she’s looking into applying to graduate schools to obtain a master’s degree in performance. She has her eye on NYU and Ohio State.

“Bigger schools in bigger cities,” she says.

She was inspired to look into NYU when she was chosen by her professors to participate in a masterclass held by NYU Professor of Violin Gregory Fulkerson.

“I think we had a good rapport,” Pappas says. “That interested me in that school.”

Though she’ll soon leave IU South Bend, Pappas says she’s grateful for her experiences.

“I think what I really like most is the fact that the faculty is as good as they are, and that we have the opportunity to have a lot of time with them,” Pappas says.

“They are very interested in investing in each person and they just spend a lot of time caring about us.”

In the meantime, she will keep on practicing.  

“Even if it’s not homework,” she says. “I like to better myself.”

To nominate a student for a future Aspire Student Spotlight, email Michele Morgan-Dufour at or Sarah Duis at