2021 PIO! Scholars Award

The Pass It On! Scholars Award is given each fall to a high school senior, university, or college student. Our PIO! Scholars reviewers select the candidate most likely, throughout their lifetime, to continue celebrating the positive power of music in the lives of children and to recognize the importance of networking and sharing knowledge, music, ideas, and songs. This year we selected two winners out of our talented pool of applicants, along with one runner-up.

Kaylin White recently graduated from Katherine Thomas High School in Rockville, Maryland. While there, she performed with the KTHS Lunch Band at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; was also a soloist at many concerts; and was even a student conductor. In addition, she played in a steel drum band and ukulele group through Strathmore Music Center. Headed to Mitchell College in the fall, Kaylin aims to earn a liberal arts degree and become a music therapist.

Photo: Kaylin White
Kaylin White

Why Music Is a Good De-stressor
by Kaylin White

I envision celebrating the positive power of music by sharing my musical abilities with children. Since I was very young, music has been a significant part of my life. There are pictures of me when I was a toddler playing instruments. I look like I’m having a lot of fun playing a little snare drum and xylophone. Ever since then, I was captivated by music. Something in me just clicks when I play music because it is very enjoyable. It makes me feel better when I am glum or irate. As I listen to music, it transports me to another world to assuage the countless anxieties of my life.

The first song I learned how to play was “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder. It was when I was in elementary school. It was frustrating and arduous since everyone else was ahead of me. They got more colored ribbons on their recorders as the songs got more complicated. I remember my teacher explaining how to play, and I practiced so diligently. I finally played the song and felt so proud when my teacher said I passed! Sometimes learning new things is arduous because of my learning disability. Even so, I worked diligently on music so I could advance.

Music will profoundly impact my life. My ambition is to better my musical abilities to one day acquire a career in music as a music therapist. Since I am also keen on helping others, I think it would be a perfect fit to play music for children. I’d like to help others use music to practice getting stronger at learning new things.

Going to college would be very beneficial for me to improve my abilities. I would be more independent and learn to take care of myself. In addition, I plan to learn new and challenging pieces to improve my musical skills. I’d like to learn classical music. I’d take a class in psychology because that is another component of what is required to be a music therapist. This scholarship would help me and my family afford college and ultimately achieve my ambitions. I plan to attend Mitchell College in the fall.

A resident of Hartland, Michigan, Zachary Shand found a fire for choral music and storytelling in his high school choir program, thanks to his director, Kathi Letovsky. In his time at Stanford University, he has deepened his passion for music education, focusing on advocacy, inclusivity, and individualized pedagogy. As he begins his senior year, he is excited to be programming a full-length conducting recital of music from around the world and to do an honors thesis focused on the barriers to equitable and accessible music education and possible reparations to those problems.

Photo: Zachary Shand
Zachary Shand

Making Music Memorable
by Zachary Shand

As an aspiring music educator looking to celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children, I reminisce on how music has impacted me personally and what I have seen it do for others. I have seen music embrace inclusivity in the classroom and advocate for equity beyond its walls, creating environments for children to tap into their own worlds and into the worlds of others.

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I set up a music internship at a local California school. Around half of these students were dual-language learners who had limited English proficiency; being from a small, rural town in Michigan, this was an eye-opening, revelatory experience for me. In many classrooms, I saw an apparent social division between the dual-language learners and the students already fluent in English. In the choir classroom, though, my mentor teacher and I utilized music as a common interest that we all shared. In focusing on multicultural pedagogy and individualized instruction and scaffolding, I was able to connect with each student through music and my dual-language instruction (Spanish and English). In connecting with each student musically and personally, they connected with one another, creating a space of inclusivity, community, and acceptance through song.

I saw joy in these students’ eyes when music served as a uniter rather than as a barrier, embodying a universal language that bonded people otherwise divided. Without choir, they may not have cultivated these friendships and grown in their compassion toward one another’s experiences.

Through this internship, I learned what it means for me to be a music educator to children. I learned that music is a tool for teaching inclusivity and social justice, and for celebrating diversity. Through culturally responsive and socioemotional pedagogy, I advocate for children’s music education with the following: children grow through their music, and as a result, grow in themselves. As I research programs for my master’s in music education, I want to attend a program that likewise celebrates how music affects children beyond what it teaches them musically.

In preparation for this, through Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, I am completing an honors thesis that focuses on the current hindrances to equitable music education; making reparations in crafting accessible, quality experiences; and researching whether musical competition helps or hinders that. Moreover, I am formally instructing a self-designed class at Stanford, titled “Assembling a Choir,” that addresses the evolving psychological, social, and cultural considerations of choral singing and music education. I hope to inspire my peers to be more introspective of their experiences and be mindful and intentional about how they teach, the music they sing, the communities they shape, and the opportunities they create for their students.

After being moved by the positive impacts of music, the students in my internship classroom began a slogan: “Take space, make space.” Through my current and future endeavors advocating for children’s music education, I plan to live by their words and help others, including students, do the same through music.

Photo: Cammeron Williams
Cammeron Williams

Runner Up

Cammeron Williams, Morgan State University
“Music . . . can help build a child’s confidence, imagination, creativity, and talents.”