Graduating from Southeast Missouri State University is the culmination of dedication and perseverance, according to Victoria Blue. It’s also the beginning of a new career and step forward she thought may never happen.
Blue, a talented French horn player of Chaffee, Missouri, always knew she wanted to study music and perform. But as a senior in high school, she was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. The condition caused paralysis of the muscles on the right side of her face. Unable to play her instrument and not knowing if she would be able to recover, she set aside her dreams of studying music.
Attending college was still important to her, and Southeast provided the financial support and affordable opportunities to pursue her higher education goals. During her first semester at Southeast, she recalls still hear the music and feeling it call to her, Blue said.
“I just couldn’t give up my love of music completely. I reached out to Dr. (Nicholas) Kenney (assistant professor of horn and assistant director of bands) about participating in the Southeast Marching Band while dealing with my situation,” she said. “He and Dr. (Martin) Reynolds (professor of music and director of bands), were very understanding and worked with me to make this happen. By the end of the semester, as a Marching Redhawk, I had gained most of my facial strength back and just knew that music was what I truly wanted to pursue.”
Blue changed her major during the second semester of her freshman year, and began following her dreams.
She also was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program – a program that encourages, supports and assists academically promising students who have been historically underrepresented in various fields to pursue education through the doctoral level. At Southeast, students are provided academic support, enhancement workshops, faculty mentoring, summer research experience, and preparation for graduate school during their junior and senior years of their undergraduate degree.
Within her discipline, she began pursuing musicology, the research-based study of music, and chose Dr. Jacqueline Wilson, professor of bassoon and musicology, to be her faculty mentor and guide her through her undergraduate research.
“Dr. Wilson excitedly accepted the challenge of coaching me for a very research-heavy summer, and supported me 100% through that journey,” Blue said. “She has continued to be a personal mentor, and has helped me grow so much as an individual and professional. I will always cherish having gotten the chance to grow so close with such an inspiring woman.”
Southeast’s Department of Music also has provided her multiple opportunities participate in participate in state, national and international conferences and competitions, which introduced her to a large community of passionate performers and to the idea of pursuing an education and performance career, Blue said.
One of the greatest highlights was performing at the 2019 International Horn Competition of America her senior year. The competition was an opportunity to meet other performers and reconnect with Dr. Natalie Higgins, assistant professor of Horn at University of Nevada-Reno (UNR), who she first met as a freshmen at Southeast’s Horn Day and took a masterclass with as a junior.
“I met so many fantastic musicians from all across the world and was so inspired by their talent and drive,” she said. “I remember Dr. Kenney telling me that he would be absolutely shocked if that competition didn’t open my eyes, and change my life as a musician. He couldn’t have been more right. I appreciate that I had the opportunity to compete and represent Southeast at the international level. I It wouldn’t have been possible without the musical guidance of Dr. Kenney and the financial support from the McNair Scholars Program and the Department of Music.”
The many professional development opportunities she had while at Southeast inspired her to continue her passion for music at the graduate level, Blue said.
“I have been fortunate to study with amazing faculty at Southeast, who have all pushed me to be the best professional I can be,” she said. “This, along with the wonderful performance opportunities and top-notch facilities, have afforded me moments as an undergraduate student, that some students from other universities don’t get to experience until graduate studies.”
This month, Blue graduates from Southeast with a Bachelor of Music in instrumental performance. Beginning in the fall, she will pursue a Master of Music Performance at the University Nevada – Reno (UNR) with a full graduate assistantship.
“Victoria came to Southeast looking for a chance,” Kenney said. “She was not prepared to study music in college, but after five years at Southeast, Victoria will move on to a master’s program on a full graduate assistantship. Her work ethic, dedication and persistence are the definition of the Will to Do.”
Southeast has enriched Blue’s musical capabilities and helped prepare her for graduate school, she said. Now, she’s looking forward to the next step in her education and professional career.
“I plan to work towards branching out more as an aspiring professional in a more competitive aspect,” Blue said. “I plan to travel more to compete at various collegiate and professional competitions, as well as work towards putting my name out in the ensemble performance world.”