Justin Wilkes

Achieving in the Arts

Justin Wilkes (College ’09)

As a double major in biochemistry and music, Justin Wilkes had a decision at Final Exercises: walk down the Lawn with the McIntire Department of Music or with the Department of Chemistry. Mr. Wilkes, who had played violin for thirteen years and studied under National Symphony Orchestra violinist Peter Haase, decided to walk with the music department.

Members of UVA’s music faculty also made their mark on him. “After taking a course with Michael Puri,” he said, “I became a Richard Wagner enthusiast. Die Walküre is my favorite operatic piece.”

Mr. Wilkes’s musical tastes are as eclectic as his choice of majors. While at UVA he performed with the University’s African Music and Dance Ensemble. “The class explored the music of west Africa to central Africa,” he said. “We learned a variety of dances and drumming patterns.”

Mr. Wilkes won the Brander Wyatt Morrison Prize in Music, which recognizes overall achievement at the end of a student’s undergraduate years. He won the award “on the basis of his academic success in music courses and overall accomplishment as a performer,” said Michael Puri, director of undergraduate education in music.

The arts play a large role in Mr. Wilkes’s life. Then there’s his other major. He studied biochemistry intending to enter the pharmaceutical industry, but decided to focus on patent law, and is now studying at the Charleston School of Law in Charleston, South Carolina. “My professors have been some of the most inspiring minds I have ever met,” he said. “I can’t be more grateful about the education I have received at the University of Virginia.”