February 21, 2024

By Rebecca Mohr, Capital University Communications Manager

Burkett Empowers Her Students and Community Through Music Education

A living testament of a music teacher’s profound impact, Kelsey Burkett ’06, M.M.Ed. ’19 serves as the director of Choirs with Hilliard City Schools. Through her unwavering commitment, she has not only built thriving choral programs, but also co-founded a Hilliard BIPOC Alliance and earned the prestigious honor of being recognized among the country's best music educators.

“I’ve really been given free rein to build something beautiful, to foster a love of singing with these kids and give them music that challenges them. I think middle school students get a bad rep sometimes with people. They think of these angsty 13- and 14-year-olds. They’re literally stuck in the middle. They’re not these little kids anymore and they’re not high schoolers yet,” said Burkett.

“I think it’s beautiful that you can give them adult challenges but then also give them a soft place to land when they fail, and they will. Give them the responsibility that they’re craving at this age. They want to feel like they can do something big and hard, and they’re capable of it. You just have to push them to it. That’s why I love this age group.”

Burkett works with two choirs at Hilliard Memorial Middle School and Blue Notes A Cappella. At the high school, she co-directs Shades of Blue A Cappella, 2023 ICHSA National Champions. Between Burkett and her coworkers, she oversees a seventh- through twelfth-grade a cappella program with four a cappella groups.

“I believe in middle school singers so much, and I think it’s important for people to see what they’re capable of. I want to showcase how awesome they are to other educators. [Shades of] Blue released their debut album in the past year, and then to win nationals last year was something we never expected,” said Burkett. “The sky’s the limit with these kids, so who knows what we’ll get into over the next few years.”

In addition to her impact in the classroom, Burkett is a leader in Hilliard and in the music education community.

“I also run and co-founded our Hilliard BIPOC Alliance, which is a support group for our teachers and staff of color within Hilliard City School district. [The Alliance also give out scholarships each year to BIPOC [student] graduates,” said Burkett. “I have loved to see the way Hilliard has evolved as a town. I love how diverse our school has become. It’s allowed me to meet so many different types of families and their kids, to learn so much about different cultures.”

In 2020, Burkett was recognized by the Country Music Association Foundation with the Music Teachers of Excellence Award.

“It was a little delayed in getting the big celebratory moment, but they ended up inviting us to the CMA awards, which they don’t typically do with the Music Teachers of Excellence,” said Burkett. “I got to see Jennifer Hudson live and all these amazing country singers. They stood up and clapped for us. Huge rock stars were clapping for us! I got to take my mom with me, which was really special.”

Burkett comes from a long family line of teachers, and her passion for music education is evident. A double graduate of Capital, she returned to the classroom to earn her Master of Music Education degree in 2019.

“I loved the flexibility of Capital’s summer program for the Master of Music Education. I knew I was going to get intensive training by the best in the business and get the social interaction that I needed. Additionally, I valued the hands-on experience of applying the pedagogy we were learning,” said Burkett.

For more information about the Conservatory of Music at Capital, visit http://almijw.nicepharma.net/academics/conservatory-of-music/.