University of South Carolina Honors College student, medieval music researcher receives Marshall Scholarship

November 24, 2008

A  University of South Carolina senior with a passion for medieval music has received a 2009 Marshall Scholarship.

COLUMBIA, SC – November 24, 2008 Elizabeth Nyikos, a South Carolina Honors College student majoring in piano performance, joins an elite group of American students chosen for this honor. The Marshall Commission annually awards up to 40 scholarships for two years of graduate-level studies in any academic field at an institution in the United Kingdom. The scholarships, founded in 1953 in Great Britain by an Act of Parliament, are named for George C. Marshall, the former U.S. Secretary of State. 

Nyikos, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in musicology at Oxford University, is the second Carolina student to be awarded a Marshall scholar, following Nicholas Miller in 2001. 

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said Nyikos exemplifies the very best of undergraduate learning and teaching at the university.    

“I am confident that Elizabeth will be an outstanding ambassador for our university as she completes her graduate program abroad. Congratulations to her and congratulations to the faculty and staff who supported her throughout her undergraduate career,” Pastides said.

Dr. John Nelson, a biology faculty member and chair of the university’s Marshall Committee, said, “Elizabeth has truly been one of Carolina’s shining stars. It has been thrilling to work with her and to take part in her excitement and enthusiasm. This award is a great accomplishment but surely only one of many to come.” 

Holder of a Palmetto Fellowship and National Merit Scholarship, Nyikos was homeschooled and is multilingual. She is the daughter of Peter Joseph and Leila Maria Nyikos of Columbia. Her father is a professor in the university’s department of mathematics. 

Niykos has conducted research in England, Spain and Italy in pursuit of her passion for medieval music. She was awarded a Magellan Fellowship to study in Budapest, Hungary, and an Honors College Undergraduate Research Grant to help fund her research interests. 

With her education in music performance and her research experience, Nyikos reconstructed the music of a 14th-century manuscript discovered at Columbia College by Dr. Scott Gwara, a University of South Carolina professor of English. In collaboration with an Oxford University medievalist, Nyikos located similar manuscripts in Italy and Spain. With information from the Columbia College manuscript and two additional sources, Nyikos assembled all three voices, thus reconstructing and performing the entire piece for the first time in 600 years. Since then, she has curated an exhibit of medieval music from the university’s collection and founded the medieval vocal ensemble, Canticum Novum. 

Gwara, who was awarded a Marshall Scholarship in 1984, said Nyikos’ comprehensive study of medieval music and history made her an outstanding candidate in the Marshall competition. 

“She is knowledgeable in the foreign languages essential to her discipline,” he said. “She has traveled widely throughout Europe and in Australia. She has met experts in medieval music. She has founded her own group. She performs competitively on the piano. She teaches piano; she plays the organ for her church. She dances. She has planned a career as a musicologist.

“She will — I have absolutely no doubt — succeed with incandescent brilliance.” 

Nyikos said the Marshall award will enable her to pursue her career goal of teaching, research and performance. 

“The Marshall Scholarship has given me the opportunity to pursue a master’s at the institution which is, beyond a doubt, the best place for me,” she said. “At Oxford, I will learn from world-renowned musicologists, have access to the extensive manuscript resources of the Bodleian Library and participate in Oxford’s vibrant tradition of early music performance, thus developing skills as both a researcher and performer.” 

The Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs assists students competing for national fellowships and scholarships, such as the Marshall. Since the office was established in 1994, university students have won nearly 400 national awards and earned more than $11.5 million in advanced academic study. 

In addition to Nelson, university faculty serving on the Marshall Committee to assist Nyikos were Dr. Jan Boucher Breuer, economics; Dr. Jill Frank, political science; Dr. Leon Jackson, English; and Dr. Gordon Smith, director of the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies. 

Visit to learn more about the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs or for information on the Marshall Scholarship.