Q&A: Kayla Short – Outstanding Senior in Music

Kayla Short with Al Wojtera, chair of the Department of Music during the the Spring 2017 Commencement

Degree: BM in Music, Cum Laude
Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia

Q: Describe the different extracurricular activities you participated in here and how they benefited you as a student.

I had two main extra-curricular activities during my time at RU. The first was joining the RU chapter of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), which is also a requirement for our music education students. We met three times per semester, listening and working with various clinicians who have been or are currently in the field of music education (specialists like Alice Hammel, Lois Castonguay, etc.). We also put together and attended the annual Virginia Music Educator's Association (VMEA) Conference to enrich our educational experience. I presided over our chapter from fall 2015 to spring 2017, and gained additional experience in trip planning, public speaking skills, professional correspondence, all while developing a closer bond with my colleagues in the music education program.

My second activity was participating with the Mu Phi Epsilon Professional Music Fraternity, which I joined in spring 2014. As a first-year college student in an unfamiliar town, I had been dealing with feelings of loneliness. Then my friends welcomed me into Mu Phi Epsilon and encouraged me to be the best musician, student and person I could. As a normally quiet and withdrawn person, this was instrumental in helping me break out of my shell and branch out in the department and beyond. It wasn't long before I found myself feeling very at home in the music department, with the fraternity and many of my classmates beginning to feel like a family away from home. I hold a deep sentimentality for these people and the organization that brought us together.

Q: If you had to pick one moment, either a best moment or most transformative moment at Radford, what would it be and describe why?

A: Tough question! I'm not exactly an "Aha!" moment type of person. It's more of a slow realization that hits me in a more subtle way, for which I think two moments while I was a student at Radford illustrate this. The first of many happened during a concert with the RU Wind Ensemble. Performing with this ensemble was a treat in itself, but there are few moments where you can actually feel your heart beating in tempo with the music – to this day, I still haven't felt anything quite like it. This thrilled the musician side of me, and it was another moment that inspired me to continue my pursuits in music.

The other moment of realization happened, not on campus, but at a local school. I was helping out some young brass players at a local high school, and I'd woken up that morning feeling under the weather; headachy, sore, seasonal allergies, just uncomfortable, but not sick enough to justify a sick day. So, I put on my teacher face and worked with my students for over an hour, and we got a considerable amount of work done in their marching band music! They still had a long way to go, but progress was progress, and this pleased the director when he came into observe. When he asked how the rehearsal was going, a student piped up, "It's AWESOME! We're sounding SO MUCH BETTER!" The other students nodded, grinning, and then the director dismissed them for lunch. While we all cleaned up and left the room, it hit me that, while I was teaching, I'd completely forgotten that I was feeling under the weather. The feeling was still there, I'd realized, but teaching music to these kids outshone my discomfort. I've had several moments just like this one, and they each remind me that I've chosen a path that I dearly love.

Q: What advice would you give to new students coming into Radford?

A: Firstly, stay inspired! Chase your passion and revisit it when you're feeling discouraged. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Secondly, take care of yourself! Drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep, learn to eat well and exercise. Don't go out too little or too much, and care for your mental, emotional and social needs.

Lastly, there are dozens of little sayings or tips I could provide for new students, but the final thing that will color your every endeavor is attitude. Approach your classes, professors, fellow students, community, and yourself with an open and compassionate mindset. Be curious and grow when you don't achieve the expectations you had for yourself. Ask questions, encourage others, and approach problems with a mindset of "Let's figure it out!"

Q: What are your upcoming plans after graduation?

Post-graduation plans are still in the works, to some degree! My long-range plan is to teach middle school band for several years, then return later on to graduate school for a Masters of Music Education. Until then, I'll be staying in the area for at least another year or so, working as a counselor with the Governor's School, freelance trumpet playing, and teaching lessons, as well as substitute teaching for local music teachers while I continue my job search.

May 11, 2017
Leslie King