Lianna Kissinger-Virizlay '10, alumna

Lianna Kissinger-Virizlay '10 is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the California Institute of the Arts. She says her undergraduate work on the Daily Princetonian and the Nassau Weekly, two student-run publications, trained her well for a current initiative.

"I founded and launched a student newspaper at CalArts last year and have continued as one of two editors-in-chief this year," she says.

"In addition, I am teaching and tutoring writing composition for CalArts in various capacities and communicating some with Princeton in Asia and other organizations abroad about where to go after earning my master's. I am more and more interested these days in expanding my boundaries when it comes to career and life opportunities, and to reach this goal Princeton's network is a powerful resource."

Kissinger-Virizlay’s first exposure to the arts at Princeton was a dance class she took during a visit. “It was perfect. There was live music. It was experimental, and moving, and made a connection between music and dance, which fit so perfectly with what I felt art should be,” she says.

Over the next few years, she learned that she could continue her artistic activities, while nurturing other interests. “The way the theater and dance program works, it’s very accessible, and I could foster my love of the arts and be very involved without dedicating all of my time to it.”

She performed with Theatre Intime and the dance program’s guest choreographer program, and she auditioned for productions staged by various student groups.

Primarily, though, as an undergraduate Kissinger-Virizlay focused on developing her talent as a writer.

“I was in the unique position of knowing what I wanted to write about for my senior thesis … a biography of my father,” she says. Her father, Mihaly Virizlay, immigrated to the United States during the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and became the principal cellist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for 40 years. “He’s been a big force in my life,” she says. The thesis focused on the spiritual correlations of music and addiction.

Through classes in English, American studies, journalism and creative writing, she studied American literature, writing about Baltimore in the 1970s and learning about biographical writing.

As she felt herself growing as a writer, Kissinger-Virizlay could confirm that she had made the right choice.

“I knew the [arts] community Princeton had set up was nurturing, exciting and really committed. Also, I knew about the thesis, and that Princeton is number one in the nation and has great professors,” she says. “I knew that coming in, but it surprised me every day.”