Western Hills High School band director Stephanie Wallace wanted her students to get the same recognition for earning college music scholarships as other kids do for athletics.
So she scheduled a signing ceremony Monday for two soon-to-be graduates, the first in her 13 years leading the band. She said she’s heard of similar ceremonies in Scott County, but it’s a rarity otherwise.
“It’s like a whole new experience – typically music students don’t get as much acknowledgement as athletes do for signing with scholarships,” said drummer Kourtney Howard, 17, who accepted a scholarship to study music therapy at the University of Louisville.
“This is one small step for a man, and one large leap for band geeks everywhere.”
Howard will receive $4,700 per year for her studies, and additional funding for playing in the marching band and ensembles. She took the stage with her parents and U of L representatives to sign her scholarship documents, as her classmates and grandparents watched from the audience.
Howard has played in the band since the sixth grade at Bondurant. She picked percussion at the urging of her parents, and after watching former WHHS drummer Jeremy Clatos perform.
To land the scholarship, Howard had to submit recommendations from her band director and private instructor, and perform five pieces of music on mallet, snare drums, drum set and timpani. She started practicing about a year ago for her January audition.
She thanked her parents, Bill and Robin Howard, for their support and driving her to auditions and to Lexington for lessons.
She also gave credit to Wallace for suggesting she apply to U of L, which she said she’d never considered before. After graduation, she hopes to work at a children’s hospital as a music therapist.
Clarinet player Alyssa Hensley, 18, signed paperwork Monday to attend Eastern Kentucky University. Her mom, Suzanne Hensley, and an EKU representative joined her on stage.
She will receive $800 per semester to minor in music and perform in an ensemble.
Her audition consisted of a prepared piece and a sight-reading performance. She plans to major in communication disorders, and said she’s looking forward to college more knowing that she has a band to belong to.
“Now that I’m doing this, I’m going to meet lots of friends through marching band, so I’m just excited I’m going to have a solid thing to look forward to,” she said.
Hensley said she’s watched many friends sign athletic scholarships, but so far band has been left out. She hopes Monday’s ceremony inspires younger band students to strive for music scholarships.
Her band director said that’s part of the goal.
“We get to see athletes celebrated for their successes in getting scholarships, and music scholarships are a lot like athletic scholarships in that when a student signs intent to go to a college, then they don’t get to audition for scholarships at other schools,” Wallace told The State Journal after the ceremony.
“We definitely wanted to not only draw some attention to music advocacy and our music programs, but especially to these students who are working really hard. It sets a great example for what they can achieve if they work hard.”