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Celebrating Music in Our Schools & Women's History Month

In March, there were two observances within the music community to celebrate: Women’s History and Music in Our Schools! The purpose of Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM) is to raise awareness to the importance of music education for all children and to remind locals that school is where all children should have access to music. It is an opportunity for music educators to bring their music programs to the attention of the community and to display the value that this education brings to students of all ages.

We have chosen a few representatives from across the Brotherhood to speak to their personal experiences within the music community as educators:

  • Dr. Christine Beason (Past National President 2013-2015, Honorary Member of the Eta Delta Chapter, and Former Director of Bands at Texas Wesleyan University)

  • Helen Capehart (Life Member of the Eta Nu Chapter and Director of Bands at Bridgeport ISD) ; 9 years in her profession

  • Elissa Travis (Alumni of the Beta Omicron Chapter and Elementary Band Director and Brass Caption Head at Mesa Public Schools) ; 2.5 years in her profession

  • Annie Yacoub (Alumni of the Mu Beta Chapter and Choir Director at Millennium 6-12 Collegiate Academy) ; first year in her profession

What does music mean to you?

Beason: "Music ties us together. People of different backgrounds, languages, religions, genders, political backgrounds, etc. all respond the same way to music. Music is a continuous and permanent presence in our lives that defines our existence as humans."

Capehart: “Everything. I would not be the person I am, be where I am or have the relationships and connections I do without music.”

Travis: “Oh gosh... this is a big one! Truly, I have no idea where I would be without music in my life. It is what keeps me going. Music is where I find comfort, inspiration, and joy. I find the answers to my questions within musical lines and lyrics. Music is my greatest companion, something I can always rely on when I need it most.”

Yacoub: “Music is a place where everyone can just be their true self and express themselves without fear of judgment.”

Who inspired you to do music?

Beason: "My older sister. She was in the high school marching band when I was about to start band. I thought it looked like fun... especially the drum majors. I joined band in 6th grade because I wanted to be a drum major in high school."

Capehart: “I think originally it was intrinsic and just came natural to me, but as I got older having great mentors and teachers helped drive my focus.”

Travis: “I have no idea where my initial inspiration to join band came from when I was younger. I think it was the instruments themselves that interested me the most. Like many others, the person who inspired me to continue music in my life was my high school band director. His name was Mr. Holley. He showed us how music can play a part of our lives in any capacity we see fit. His passion and dedication to us during difficult times taught me perseverance and tenacity. His love for all kinds of music allowed me to open my ears to all new possibilities. Most of all, the community of kindness he built with us is something that will forever stick with me.”

Yacoub: “My high school choir director, Mr. A, always pushed me to be the best version of myself possible and gave me so much support and guidance along the way.”

What is one of the biggest difficulties to be a woman in music?

Beason: "Gender stereotypes! Band Directors and Music Educators require a high level of organization and control to make a band program successful. It's okay for a man to be forceful and in control, but women who portray those characteristics are looked at in a negative light. I will say that the stereotyping has improved over my career, but it is still there."

Capehart: “Being so busy while my little ones grow. I know that I chose this field and it's a career I love, but it's hard not being 100% at everything.”

Travis: “As a woman in brass, there are often stereotypes cast upon you before you can even make a sound on your instrument. I have found that even from an early age. I distinctly remember being the only girl in a horn section full of boys in my first middle school honor band and being disregarded because of it. I've had clinicians tell me I can't make powerful sounds because of my size. I've marched with gentlemen who made their distaste for me obvious after techs wanted me to go out for drum corps.

While these are all unfortunate scenarios I've faced during my career, I've never let any of these stop me. I have made it my mission to be the best musician and educator I can be and be judged on that, not my gender. The passion I give to my students comes from years of learning and growing through incredible experiences and mentors. I have worked extremely hard to be where I am today, and will continue to work and give back to my students in musical ways.”

Yacoub: “As a woman, I have not been taken seriously by students that have been raised with traditional stereotypes. Many of my students are physically larger than me, which some take as a sign that they do not need to listen to me, so I have had to adjust the way I carry myself to show that my stature does not change my authority.”

What advice would you offer to music students currently pursuing their careers?

Beason: "Focus on the success of each student, not the trophy or the ratings. I see too many band directors remove weak players from the program so the overall performance will be better. The math teachers aren't allowed to kick kids out of their class when they are failing, so music educators should not be allowed to remove the weaker players. You don't know what that student may be going through. Sometimes the kid needs band more than the band needs the kid, and you may be making a HUGE impact in that kid's life by providing them a positive activity."

Capehart: “Find a mentor!!! There are roads I never worried about crossing until I was in the moment and having someone you can talk through things with, as well as see them go through those journeys, really helps in the long run. Don't try to be on the island alone!”

Travis: “My biggest piece of advice I can offer would be to KEEP GOING! While music can be our friend, music can also be difficult to work with. This is apparent during your college education when a lot of weight is on your shoulders. Things might seem tough, but you are tougher! Let music be your guide during this time. This is just the beginning of a truly thrilling life of music making. You will experience things you never thought possible because you have music in your life.”

Yacoub: “Keep pushing through those hard times. The mountain may seem impossible to climb, but if you keep taking it step by step, you will eventually reach the peak.

Also, find time to take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You may feel that taking an hour to read a book, sit in nature or just sleep in may not be a useful way to spend your time with all of your assignments and music to learn, but if you are fully charged, your shortened practice time will be so much more efficient than a longer practice time when you are running on empty.”

Kappa Kappa Psi is a band organization, but we all know that music education includes more than just band. Why is it important to celebrate all levels of music education (music in our schools)?

Beason: "Because of what I said in the first answer. Music ties us all together."

Capehart: “There would not be Band/Choir/Dance without elementary music! The fundamental skills they learn at the elementary level, even if they are taking lessons privately, are invaluable and help our jobs and programs tremendously!”

Travis: “[...] All music is worth celebrating, as we are all musicians in our own ways.”

Yacoub: “The best students in the band program in my school are chorus students and vice versa. If one form of music succeeds, all of them do. That beginning chorus student that can't match pitch but loves to sing can go next door and pick up a clarinet and suddenly they can hear the rise and fall of melodies, and from practicing sight-singing in chorus, they are better readers in band.”

In the spirit of Women's History Month and MIOSM, tell us about your favorite woman artist, music album and/or composer.

Beason: "Wow. Of all the questions this one is the hardest to answer. I have so many women I look up to and admire. Right now I have to say my favorite is Julie Giroux. She is an all around amazing human with one of the best souls I have ever met."

Capehart: “The first music artist I remember having a lasting impact on me is Shania Twain. The ability to write and produce her own music, while also performing at such a high level and being so meticulous on how her performances go is something I remember. Even though she is a Country artist, she also created music that was accessible to all genres and music listeners.”

Do you have a favorite music teacher moment in your life? This could be a favorite performance, a moment of realization, or a personal goal achieved, for example.

Capehart: “Any time my ‘kids’ are recognized for their musicianship and outstanding work, it brings me such joy! I love that I am able to create such beautiful musical moments with and for my students and when they receive the praise they deserve, I know we're doing things right.”

Travis: “Every music educator that I have gotten the opportunity to work with has had a significant impact on my development not just as a teacher, but as a human. Their investments in me will continue to guide me to where I want to be in life.

Out of the countless incredible moments I've had because of music and band, one of the most impactful has to be my first year of collegiate marching at Arizona State University with James G. Hudson. ‘Hud’ always told us that we were a part of something special, and every day he continued to show us how. Despite being one of the largest bands in the country, Hud cultivates a loving and passionate community within the Sun Devil Marching Band. Every moment of that first year was truly magical for me. From the first time running out of the tunnel at Sun Devil Stadium, to friendly banter during rehearsal, to road game inside jokes and insanities, and everything in-between. For me, Hud helped remind me of why I did band and why I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I'll always be grateful for the dedication and spirit he gave me during my time under his direction.”

Yacoub: “One day during chorus rehearsal I was having feelings of impostor syndrome, where I felt that maybe being a chorus teacher was not for me and that I could not live up to the requirements of the job. During that rehearsal, there was a district employee checking the sprinklers in my classroom and he asked my students if they liked my class and many of them were quick to say that they love my class or that I am their favorite teacher. One student even said that my class is the only reason she comes to school. Without even realizing the doubts that were plaguing my head, my students shut them down and kept going with rehearsal.”

Why is it important for children to have a music class and/or access to music in our schools?

Capehart: “We all know that music in a daily discipline is important for the growth and development of the brain but having the freedom to sing/dance/play every day and along with your peers is such an important part of it as well. There's the social/emotional aspect of everyone creating together but also the growth of confidence and mastery.”

Travis: “As an elementary music educator, I see firsthand the impact music has on a child. Children today have virtually everything at their fingertips. Utilizing those tools is something they are struggling with. Music teaches the skills we need to live plentiful lives: how to create, how to problem solve, how to preserve, how to think critically, how to listen deeply, and so much more. Moreover, music allows us the opportunity to experience sounds and cultures we cannot find within the confines of our community. Music connects us to the rest of the world; it is a universal experience that's done differently anywhere you go. I teach a World Music elective class at my campus, and this program has helped students think more openly about music and how it affects the population around the globe.”

Yacoub: “Many of my students have told me that I am the only teacher they like or my class is the reason they come to school. They feel at home and safe making music and it brings them to school when they may be struggling in other classes because they enjoy it. I have had students that were previously struggling in their classes that were told that they cannot do performances with their current grades and work so hard to get those grades fixed. They still show me their grades months after these performances to show me that they are still doing well. These music classes give them the little push they need in order to excel in other subjects.”

Given Dr. Christine Beason's experience as National President in 2013-2015, we asked her two additional questions about her experience in the fraternity.

In 1919, Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Fraternity, was established by men in the band program. In 1977, Lea F. Fuller was initiated as the first woman in Kappa Kappa Psi. In 2007, Dr. Malinda Matney became the first female president of Kappa Kappa Psi. While this progression required time and significant effort from women in leadership roles, what advice would you offer to all women who are currently serving or considering stepping up for a leadership position in Kappa Kappa Psi?

Beason: "Go for it! Reach out to the women who have come before you. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we are all willing to sit down and have a frank and honest conversation, and we will support you!"

According to Kappa Kappa Psi History (please correct us if we are wrong), you were the first female president who was a band director too. How was that experience, and why do you think that was an important milestone?

Beason: "Yes, that is correct. I was the second female President, and the first female band director to be President. I think it is a milestone for a number of reasons: 1. Women college band directors are a minority. Last I checked, women only made up 10% of all college band directors. I think that percentage has slightly improved by now, but not by much. I think it is important for our Brothers to see role models of all races, genders, nationalities, etc.  Differences make us all stronger. 2. We are a band organization, but most of our leaders are not in the band profession. I wish more college band directors would get involved and volunteer to be leaders in the Fraternity. I hope I was able to serve as an example to other directors."

Thank you to Dr. Christine Beason, Helen Capehart, Elissa Travis, and Annie Yacoub for taking the time to shed light on the profound impact of music education and the challenges faced by women in the field.

Happy Women's History Month and Music In Our Schools Month, brothers!

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