The Powerful Lessons My Fellowship Taught Me

Sitting in the crowded library during my sophomore year of college, my friend leaned over to tell me about a scholarship created by the new college president, Shirley Collado. I was already convinced I had no chance of receiving it, but due to my friend’s convincing argument of “having nothing to lose,” I decided to apply. After an intense series of applications and interviews, I was deeply fortunate to have been chosen as one of the nine members of Ithaca College’s Inaugural BOLD Cohort.

The mission of BOLD is to develop courageous leadership among young women in higher education who possess the skills necessary to move the discourse forward on some of our most challenging social issues. Through a structured curriculum, community building retreats, and the implementation of a campus transformation project, BOLD Scholars aim to leverage their own identities, strengths, and collective knowledge to positively impact social change and foster inclusive campus environments. One of the incredible opportunities that the BOLD Foundation provides is the chance to apply for a Fellowship, wherein Scholars not only continue to uplift the BOLD mission but gain meaningful work in their field. As someone who earned two Bachelors of Music, it was crucial to create a Fellowship proposal that involved working with a nonprofit organization that demonstrated commitment to collaboration, innovation, diversity, and inclusion through music.

After spending every free moment searching for “music nonprofits,” “music for social change,” and “music education organizations,” my search led me to the website of a nonprofit I had never heard of: The MusicianShip. What sold me on The MusicianShip as a partner in my Fellowship was their mission statement “to change lives by facilitating music lessons, experiences, and opportunities to benefit youth who need us most.” I connected with Amber Pannocchia, the Director of Youth Programs, who was excited at the possibility of working with me, and I immediately felt a connection. In May of 2019, my Fellowship proposal to work as a Youth Programs Associate with The MusicianShip was approved by a panel of Ithaca College faculty and staff.

I began my Fellowship with The MusicianShip (TMS) this past January and soon started my first major project: recruiting for the new Voice Class program. I assumed the position of Instructor for all four sites, located across the city. Traveling from Deanwood, to Columbia Heights, to Georgetown, to Trinidad was one of the most informative experiences TMS provided me. In doing so, I saw how much a city, a community, and its people can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. I felt a heartbeat throughout the city, tied together by the undeniable love of music. Every place I went to teach, recruit students, or speak with community members, everyone seemed excited and passionate about our work. 

The highlight of my Fellowship was serving as the Program Manager and Lead Instructor for the Summer 2020 Virtual K-8 Voice Program. I developed a six-week curriculum for a wide age range with varying levels of abilities, in addition to exploring and refining my virtual teaching skills, which continues to come in handy during this pandemic era. The Summer Program also helped me gain confidence in my instructional approach, as well as my identity as a teacher and what I want to impart upon my students. All of this powerful learning has propelled me into my future as a music educator, as it helped me successfully land a full-time elementary music position for this fall! 

Fortunately, Amber and the rest of the Youth Programs Team were intentional in providing me with a wide range of experiences during my Fellowship. From observing rehearsals to tabling at schools across the city, to data analysis, I’ve developed a set of skills I never knew I had. The experience that I was most nervous about was chairing the creation of The MusicianShip’s first-ever annual report. Not only was I anxious about making a good first impression on the Executive Director, Jeff, but I had no background experience in creating this type of content. Through the team’s careful guidance, we created a beautiful product that we are proud to share with our community; check it out on our About page! 

My time with The MusicianShip has taught me powerful lessons, especially how music can change lives. Growing up as a privileged white woman whose school district had an outstanding fine arts department, I always knew that music was impactful, but I never viewed it as more than my favorite class and after-school activity. Music never needed to save my life or help me when I needed positive redirection. Yet, working at TMS has shown me that that is the greatest power of music, especially for students who come to class with burdens like what they’ll eat for dinner or how they’ll pick up their siblings from school on time. My experience with The MusicianShip showed me that I need to fight not only to better fund and support music education in our public schools, but also to ensure that all students, regardless of their racial, cultural, gender, socioeconomic, or immigrant identities, are provided the opportunity to immerse themselves in music in hopes of a better tomorrow. 

My Fellowship at TMS has taught me many things. However, most importantly, The MusicianShip has affirmed to me that my passion for music and my goal of being a life-long music educator is powerful, meaningful, and needed now more than ever in our world.

Hannah Cayem
2020 BOLD Fellow