Alumni Success Stories - Melissa Rice

Alumni Success Stories - Melissa Rice

Tell us about your family and background.

I'm an only child. My dad was in the military, so I traveled all around and lived in many different places. He ended up retiring at Canon outside of Clovis. I graduated from Clovis High School and ended up at ENMU to get my undergraduate degree.

What are your hobbies?

I like to read. I obviously like music. But right now, the thing that's taking up all my spare time is renovating a house. So, I will say right now my hobby is renovating.

Why did you choose to attend ENMU?

When I was in High School, I looked around at many different schools in the area. I've lived in many places and wanted to go far away. Obviously, that didn't happen, and I ended up at ENMU. But I went to ENMU because I felt like I would be valued, primarily by Dustin Seifert, who is still the Director of Bands at Eastern. He showed me that he saw a lot of value in me. He asked me to come to ENMU, and he would give me a scholarship if I did. So that, for me, was one of the biggest reasons why I chose to go to ENMU. It has been the best decision I've ever made.

Why did you choose to study music?

I started at ENMU as an English major. Dustin was still recruiting me to be in the ENMU band and would still give me a scholarship because he still valued me as a musician. But I felt, it's just so funny now to think about it, but I felt like I wasn't good enough to be a music major. I had an interest in English, I was a good writer, and I love to read. So, I thought, "That's what I'm going to do." I went in as an English major, and I was an English major for three whole years. That entire time I was a music minor. I was active in the music department, taking a few music classes every semester. Obviously, taking lessons in the ensembles. Then in my third year of school, I thought, "Man, all of my friends are in the music department; all of my passion is in the music department." That's where I felt the best. So, I made a last-minute decision and changed my degree to music. I then banged out four years of work in two years to get out of there. So, I chose music because I felt like it was more where I belonged, and that was proven true.

What do you hope to ultimately achieve in your career?

That's a difficult question because I feel like, in a way, I'm already achieving that. One of my biggest bucket list items is being the Head Director of a program. This is my first year in this position, so I've checked that box off. But the thing for me as a music educator is I want to give my students a lifelong appreciation of music whether they go into music or not. I used to teach in Clovis, so it's nice to have students I taught who are now in college. In fact, I did an interview two weeks ago with a student who needed to interview someone. And currently, she's studying to be a music educator. I taught her beginning band, and now she wanted to interview me. I have former students right now going to ENMU to become music educators. And that is my ultimate goal to give these kids a lifelong appreciation of music even if they don't continue in music, that they pursue community bands, or that they want to encourage their children to be in band. 

What was your favorite part about being a Greyhound? 

It's hard because there's not a part that I did not like. I always encourage my students if they ask me about the benefits of attending ENMU. I tell them that if you go to ENMU, you are someone. Because I was a graduate student getting my master's degree at a division one big, huge university. So, I still had like that I was still someone. But I couldn't imagine attending college like that as an undergrad. It is special because people know your name. I'm on the ENMU Board of Directors for the ENMU Alumni Association. And even if I go to things, people I knew from ENMU still remember my name. I was someone. I had experiences I wouldn't have had at other schools and met the best friends of my life at ENMU.

Did you earn any academic honors at ENMU? 

I did. In my department, I was a finalist for the Friends of Music scholarship. And I often got the runner-up scholarship for that. I never quite won the whole thing. That's a recital audition where you perform in front of a full panel of people. I was also the principal clarinetist in the wind symphony. And I was the drum major of the Greyhound Sound marching band. So, I had those sorts of leadership positions like that.

Are you working on any academic projects currently?

I recently became the state chair for New Mexico for Women Band Directors International. I am participating in the conference that they're going to be having. I am interested in women in music because band directing is a very masculine profession. So, I really like to promote women in music education.

Were you involved in any activities outside the classroom?

The drum major of the Greyhound Sound. I was in the wind symphony as the principal clarinetist in the wind symphony. I was in the National Band Association. I was also a president's ambassador. I was in Kappa Kappa PSI which is an honorary band service fraternity. And I was the president of the entire Southwest District, which is all the chapters in New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. So, I was very active in that organization when I was an undergrad.

What professor mentored you?

The person that's still one of my primary mentors is Dustin Seifert. He took me there to ENMU. He kept me there at ENMU. He supported me when I changed to music and still supports me. He was here about a week and a half ago to work with my top band. He is still the primary mentor in my life. I also studied under Dr. Jennifer Laubenthal when I was there for clarinet. She's no longer there, but she was a great mentor to me and Kayla Liechty, who's still there. She was always my accompanist on my recitals. A wonderful human being to have to work with, and to talk to, and to guide you.

What was your favorite class at ENMU?

It would have to be wind symphony. I mean, that is what I do now. I mean, it's my career. I always enjoyed being able to play with other musicians and exploring real quality music. It guided me as a music educator to select good quality music for my students.

What other dreams do you have?

This dream is very unrelated to what I do, but I've always wanted to try to be an audiobook narrator. I like to listen to audiobooks, and sometimes I think like, you know, different narrators, and I think, "Oh, I would love to do that." Plus, one of the weird things about how I teach is that I use many different accents. It would be fun to do something like that. To be able to narrate audiobooks.

What advice would you give to students interested in studying music?

One of the most important things to do is to just stick true to who you are. To what you believe in. And I think that's for everything. For every different career. But when you go into music education, there are a lot of opinions out there that control our field, and a lot of times, you have to just be able to stand up for how you think it should sound or what you should do. So many different opinions can affect our field, so it's important to be yourself.