Each season the QCSYE says “farewell” to seniors graduating from across the Quad Cities region. Many of these seniors choose to study music as performers and educators. Over the next few weeks, we are highlighting several seniors from the class of 2021 who are pursuing careers in music! 

Sierra Craig, a graduating senior at Davenport Central High School, is a dedicated member of the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra. She has been playing trombone since 5th grade, and she participates in a variety of ensembles including band, orchestra, marching band, and jazz band. Sierra plans to attend Vanderbilt School of Music in the fall to study music education.  

Earlier this spring, Sierra was mentioned in the Virtual Panel Discussion “The Student Experience in K-12 Music Education” featuring Kimberly Gardner (music teacher at Frances Willard Elementary), Calesia House (Director of Instrumental Music at Wilson Middle School), and Wesley Julien (Quad Cities musician, drummer, and producer). 

Sierra was in Gardner’s general music class in Davenport. Gardner has since moved to the Rock Island School District but continues to use her as an example for her current students. She said, “I point out other students of color when we’re at [QCSYE] concerts.” She believes that when students of color see themselves represented in musical genres, then they are more willing to pursue those passions. 

Additionally, House discussed the importance of having black women in teaching positions, especially as music educators. Sierra mentioned that seeing Gardner as a music teacher inspired her to become one as well. Because the three panelists were interviewed about their musical pasts, we thought we would ask Sierra (and Jonathon Hughes) why she wants to be a music educator. 

What inspired you to begin band in 5th grade?
What inspired me was when I was little I would go to parades and when the bands came by I would get super excited by how much fun they were having and it made me really want to join band. And so I did, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. 

Who are your primary musical influences?
Some of my classic influences I’ve gained while being in music have been James Brown, Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, JJ Johnson, and of course Louis Armstrong. My biggest musical influence in my life is definitely my 6th Grade band director Mrs. Robin Ciccotelli. She helped me find my passion in life and always put others’ needs before her own even though she had plenty of her own to worry about! 

Why do you want to be a music educator?
I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher I just didn’t know what I wanted to teach. That was until high school when I met the Central Band Directors at the time (Mr. Wilga, Mr. Zeglis, and Mrs. Gardner) They’ve taught me so many things and inspired me in so many different ways. This made me realize that I wanted to teach music because I would be doing what I love and hopefully being someone’s inspiration in the future like my teachers were for me. It was also really cool having Mrs. Gardner, a woman who was also African American like how I am which made me feel more comfortable so I thought to myself maybe I could do the same thing for my students in the future. 

What are some of the challenges that music education will face in the next five years?
A challenge I think music education will face in the next couple of years is having students to be motivated wanting to learn about music. Especially after the pandemic people have become less motivated, even myself for a little while. 

What are you hoping the future of music education looks like?
I am hoping that the future of Music Education will hopefully be more diverse and still be a safe and comfortable setting for kids and adults to do what they love and are passionate about! 

About the Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles

The Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles (QCSYE) program consists of five performance groups (four youth orchestras and a youth choir) for students in grades two through twelve. Under the direction of the outstanding QCSYE conducting staff, members have the opportunity to perform great orchestral and choral repertoire with the most talented young musicians in the area and learn from the mentorship of professional musicians from throughout the region. Ensemble members come from the greater Quad Cities, as well as other communities in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois.

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Article by
Chelsea Schwarzkopf
QCSYE General Manager

Funding for the QCSO website provided by the Scott County Regional Authority