News & Stories
Kylie Hamilton
August 23, 2023

Finding Her Rhythm: Music Education Alum Grows Programs and Love of Music

Kylie Hamilton-Lord ’21 has an impressive resume in the music education world. In her first teaching job, she tripled the class size of the middle school band where she taught and initiated student involvement in district and all-state band auditions. In 2021, four of her auditioning students made the District Honors Band. The following year, 18 students auditioned, and 14 of her students were selected.

Hamilton-Lord is accomplishing this work in a male-dominated profession. According to MTD Research, which specializes in collecting school performing arts data, nearly 65% of middle school band directors are men. With her experience and pick of opportunities, Hamilton-Lord has now chosen to give back to the community she grew up in, serving as the band director at Villa Rica Middle School.

Thinking about her career trajectory, Hamilton-Lord says a strength of the Berry music education program is students learn by doing: “At Berry, I received concrete experience. It was a safe place to fail and build deep relationships. I knew I would leave college feeling comfortable and confident in the classroom.”

She still uses much of her Berry coursework in her teaching. For example, during Hamilton-Lord's study abroad experience, she taught music in Norwegian schools where the children did not speak English.

“It was really tough,” she says, “but the experience taught me how to teach around cultural and linguistic barriers. It pushed me to connect and see music as its own language. In every country, people read music the same way, but this hands-on experience gave me a sensitivity to teaching other cultures.”

Some might even call middle school its own culture, but as Hamilton-Lord talks about her students, her gifting for this age group and for teaching is undeniable. She loves introducing students to music for the first time and giving them something to be passionate about or look forward to in their day.

Hamilton-Lord also describes her student work position in the admissions office as significant to her career, though the connection is not immediately apparent to others.

“As the student director in the Berry admissions office,” she explains, “I learned many skills I use for the behind-the-scenes work of teaching: contacting parents, building schedules, practicing delegation and presenting at conferences. I made recruitment and retention plans in my classes, but in admissions, I learned a different intentionality. Just as incoming college students want to be known individually, middle schoolers want you to know them individually. Recruiting is not about getting the whole middle school in the band. It's about building relationships, learning names, interests, etc.”

In fact, Hamilton-Lord’s work mirrors her experience in the Berry community, a group of people she says is committed to intentional relationships. Even now, the Berry community is not a distant memory, as she schedules beach trips with college friends and engages weekly in group text chats with other music education alumni to talk about the profession and share advice.

Thinking about the power of relationships and advice for incoming students, Hamilton-Lord reminisces about the Berry College student who was her drum major instructor in her high school band and who encouraged her to visit Berry.

“One person might put you in contact with another person who helps you find the right college or helps you land a job,” says Hamilton-Lord. “There’s a relational ripple effect at Berry. At this small school, the connections are strong. Berry is full of people who will continue to vouch for you and want you to succeed. Make as many connections at Berry College as you can, inside and outside of your major.”

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