Jaina Demeter poses for a photo.
Jaina Demeter poses for a photo.
Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer

Jaina DeMeter: Harmonizing passions with academics

Seated at a piano with a stack of sheet music, Jaina DeMeter immerses herself in the world of music, deciphering rhythms and beats. Entrenched in her work, her passion for music shines as her fingers tap the keys. 

As a junior music and English writing major, DeMeter not only navigates her academic pursuits but also orchestrates a symphony of leadership roles at Pitt. In addition to her role as a residential assistant in Lothrop, she harmonizes her responsibilities with serving as the business manager for Girl Up, a women’s empowerment club at Pitt and singing in the Treble Choral Ensemble, where she also serves as vice president. 

Having taken an interest in music in high school, DeMeter continues her music journey through her college career. 

“I pretty much did everything my high school offered, like choir, concert band and was field commander in marching band. I also did theater and plays,” DeMeter said. 

After graduating and coming to Pitt, DeMeter auditioned for the Treble Choral Ensemble her first year, and successfully made it into the selective group. 

“Jaina came to TCE with a lovely voice. In fact, she had a solo in the December concert her first semester,” Lorraine Milovac, the Treble Choir director, said. 

DeMeter’s vocal performance has only improved since coming to Pitt, according to Milovac, as she continues to practice and learn music theory. 

“Through singing in the choir, studying privately and taking musicianship classes at Pitt, not only has Jaina’s vocal development, tone quality and range matured, but her knowledge as a musician has helped her to sing with better musical phrasing and stylistic nuance,” Milovac said. “Her voice, and her personality, add a lot to the choir.”

Last year, DeMeter served as student director of the choir and often ran group warm-ups, section rehearsals and directed performances such as singing the National Anthem at sporting events

“Jaina has stood out as a leader in the choir from her freshman year. She asks questions, she asks for help for herself and for those around her, she makes people new to the choir, as well as returning members, feel welcome by greeting them and getting to know them individually,” Milovac said. 

DeMeter said she enjoys Pitt’s music department due to the inclusive and holistic approach. 

“You don’t have to audition to be a music major,” DeMeter said. “I just love the open environment, and all my professors are literally incredible and amaze me every day.”

DeMeter said music is an important part of her life and something she needs to “enrich” herself. 

“I feel like if I couldn’t sing, my life would be very different,” DeMeter said. “I just love singing with others. I love the process of singing songs for months, then you have one performance of those songs. Those sorts of feelings are really fun as well, really valuable for me.”

Whenever DeMeter goes into an audition for music groups, she said the process can feel scary. She said the point isn’t necessarily that one can do it, but that they’re willing to try. 

“Learning those skills will help you further develop in class, and that’s typically what people are looking for in an audition process,” DeMeter said. 

When DeMeter is not working on her music major, she is pursuing her second major — English writing. 

“When I came to Pitt, I was really confused and switched classes around a lot and ended up in an Intro to Poetry class, and I loved poetry in high school. I think that it just satisfied a part of myself,” DeMeter said. “I guess it was the creative side that I needed.” 

Aspiring to work in the music history or research field, she recognizes there is synergy between her music and writing majors that help her understand music in cultural and historical contexts. 

“I feel like they go hand in hand, especially when you’re studying culture. I think they just ended up really suiting each other, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed and loved,” DeMeter said. 

Although DeMeter is currently a music major, she originally came into college wanting to become a teacher, but eventually started to lean more toward her musical interest. 

Once this interest took shape, DeMeter said she still wanted to find a space to advocate, inspiring her to join the club Girl Up, a women’s empowerment club started through the United Nations. Although she found a new passion for music, her desire to help teach young girls still persisted. Her original inclination for teaching allowed her to make a positive impact, by advocating for young girls even if she can’t teach them. Some activities the club has previously done include volunteering for Family House, fundraising for charities and hosting general board meetings to discuss world issues. 

Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer

Coming from the Ohio Valley west of Pittsburgh, DeMeter said she grew up in a poor area and tries to help others with those experiences. 

“The thing about the Ohio Valley is that it’s very economically poor, pretty much no matter where you go. The high school I attended was actually the poorest in the area,” DeMeter said. “So it’s already poor, then it was the worst one. So the opportunities here were things I wasn’t really familiar with.”

By joining clubs such as Girl Up, DeMeter is able to help struggling girls around the world to provide them with the opportunities she missed. 

“I joined it my freshman year, and I’m on the board now. It’s been a really wonderful experience,” DeMeter said. “I also met all my best friends in Girl Up, so it’s been really fun to engage in the advocacy and political side of myself in a way my major doesn’t let me, but also have friends that think the same way I do.”

As business manager, DeMeter said she also acts as fundraising chair by organizing fundraisers and keeping track of the club’s money to spend on supplies. Before DeMeter took on the role as business manager for Girl Up, Milovac said she served as the fundraising coordinator for the Treble Ensemble. 

“She has outstanding organizational skills, and her dedication to the choir is commendable,” Milovac said. 

Due to her organizational skills and previous experience, DeMeter was able to successfully take on the role as business manager with Pitt’s Girl Up club. 

“We did a Krispy Kreme fundraiser last semester that was really fun. It’s been really nice to be able to bring doughnuts to everyone since there isn’t a Krispy Kreme around here,” DeMeter said. 

Since DeMeter also serves as a resident assistant at Lothrop Hall, she said she gave the leftover donuts to her residents to eat for breakfast. DeMeter came into her RA position this year after her own RA put a card on her door encouraging her to apply for the position last year. 

“I felt very lost and misguided, and what helped me get through those times was my RAs. It only takes one person to believe in you, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do that for other people,’” DeMeter said.

Justin Curtis, the lead resident assistant of Lothrop, said he thinks it is important for an RA to work closely with residents on the floor. 

“In regards to Jaina, she started from day one  building strong relationships with her residents. It is very evident the time and intention she puts into this aspect of the job,” Curtis said. 

Since Lothrop is an upperclassmen dorm, Curtis said DeMeter does a good job of advocating for residents on the floor and does not put herself above them. 

“She really brings a sense of familiarity to the floor and encourages residents to stop by and talk. She goes out of her way beyond the job description,” Curtis said.

This year, DeMeter put together paper heart decorations for Valentine’s Day, a pumpkin painting event during Halloween season and an event encouraging people to vote. 

“I think the residents really respond to her putting in the extra effort. It says a lot when RAs are willing to go this extra mile, and it leads to a better floor community,” Curtis said. 

To lead a floor community, DeMeter said she finds it important to explore what kinds of communication works for people. 

“I had a check-in with one of my residents and I was like, ‘how do you reach out for help?’ And she was like, ‘I don’t ask for help,’” DeMeter said. “It made me realize that not everybody communicates in the same way. Everyone embodies that  space differently. I think it’s the same way with the staff in that we’re all leaders, but everyone is so different.” 

In the symphony of her life, DeMeter conducts all of her responsibilities, each note resonating with passion and dedication to harmony within herself and the community around her. This is shown throughout the Pitt community, as she continues pursuing her interests and caring for others.

She cares for everyone and everything she does, and this is evident to each person she inspires.

“She is direct and honest in all she does and is respected and loved by her peers,” Milovac said. “Jaina cares. She cares that she is singing accurately and with expression, she cares that the choir is working towards artistic excellence, and she cares about each person in the choir. Jaina is a gem!”