As more than 2,000 fans rose from their seats and the Tsongas Center fell quiet, Nicole Hayek stood confidently at center court with microphone in hand. For the next two minutes, the arena was hers as she delivered a sublime rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Hayek's national anthem performance before the UMass Lowell men's basketball game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day wasn't her first; the junior business administration major from Salem, N.H., had been invited to sing twice before at River Hawk athletic events.
"I love singing the anthem because, while I am getting a business education here, I love to do anything that involves music, too," says Hayek, who's been singing and playing piano for as long as she can remember. She's currently in a band with her older sister, Christine, and a friend ("We're pop-country, with a little R&B mixed in, too"), and they're hoping to soon start picking up gigs in the area.
"I don't like to say music is on the side for me, because I like to treat it as equal to my education," Hayek says. "I have equal passion for both, and I enjoy being able to learn about them together."
Hayek originally considered majoring in music business in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, but instead chose to pursue marketing in the Manning School of Business.
"I loved that marketing was more broad, and that I could use it in so many different fields," says Hayek, who transferred to UML after one semester at Northern Essex Community College. "Even if I can't make it big as a musician, I can always perform locally and use my marketing education to work behind the scenes in the music industry."
Hayek interned at the radio station 92.5 the River (WXRV) as a senior in high school, and she hasn't missed a beat when it comes to resume-building opportunities in college. In addition to working as a member service rep at Service Credit Union, Hayek was a marketing intern for the Global Entrepreneurship Exchange program on campus last summer. This year, Hayek has a marketing liaison co-op job in the Manning School Dean's Office. One of her major projects has been to write profiles of more than two dozen business students, which have been printed on framed posters and hung around the four-story atrium of the Pulichino Tong Business Center.
"I love being able to use the creative side of my mind working in the Dean's Office," says Hayek, a commuter student who earned a Regional Provost Scholarship to cover half her tuition. "The poster project has really let me use the marketing skills that I'm learning in class."
In the fall, Hayek participated in the Pandora Challenge, a daylong marketing competition held at the iHub in conjunction with the Music Department. She was also among 10 students chosen by Dean Sandy Richtermeyer to represent the Manning School at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston. There, she was able to network with young business leaders and entertainers, including members of the Boston-based band Ripe, who gave her advice on launching her music career.
"It really inspired me to put more time into the band," says Hayek, who sings lead vocals and plays piano. "Music has always been my biggest dream, but I'm so thankful for the opportunities that UMass Lowell has given me. The array of opportunities here is never-ending."