Alumna Recognized for Music Education Advocacy in Urban Schools

Katie Brodhead accepting award

In less than a decade, Katy Brodhead ’10 has achieved greater professional success as an educator than she ever imagined. She says her commitment to music advocacy was inspired by her experience in elementary school band.

“I would have a drastically different life and identity if I hadn’t had access to a music program as a kid,” she said. “This understanding pushed me to teach in a community where access to music in schools is not always a given. I want to make sure that all students, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, have access to potentially life-changing opportunities such as music education.”

After graduating from Lebanon Valley College with her degree in music education, Brodhead launched music programs in three schools serving more than a combined 1,000 students. One of the programs included a partnership with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra to teach violin to second-grade students.

These accomplishments led to a promotion and new job as the supervisor of visual and performing arts for Newark Public Schools. Part of her responsibilities include coaching arts teachers who reach more than 33,000 students in the district.

Before this role, Brodhead taught music to K-8 students at the Rafael Hernandez School of Performing Arts in Newark for three years. She used partnerships to build a comprehensive music program in her district and throughout the Newark area.

Her list of recent accomplishments is impressive:

  • Through multiple grants, including one from VH1 Save the Music, she established an instrumental music program for students starting in fifth grade.
  • She teamed with a local magnet high school and the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass., to create a pathway of music opportunities for students from preschool through college.
  • She created an All City Music Festival that reaches students across 19 schools.
  • As the Urban Liaison in the North Jersey School Music Education Association, she helped pioneer a scholarship program to support students from low socioeconomic backgrounds who wish to participate in regional festivals.

“I love the opportunity to watch students discover a passion,” she said. “There’s a moment when a student realizes that what they can do with music is special—sometimes it’s when they play their first note or song on an instrument, or maybe, it’s the first time they walk on stage for a performance, or even when they realize they can work with a classmate to make something new. That moment is often the beginning of a student’s long-term relationship with music, and seeing students experience it is the best part of my job.”

As part of the music program at her school, Brodhead regularly welcomes back one of her LVC professors, Dr. Hannes Dietrich, and his wife, Dr. Marie-Aline Cadieux. The pair perform for the students and teach mini lessons to encourage them to keep learning and practicing.

Brodhead, who recently completed her master’s degree in educational leadership through the Urban Principals Academy at Lehigh University, appreciates the connections that she created with faculty and the development of her leadership potential while at LVC.

“At LVC, I worked closely with professors like Dr. Dietrich and my flute teacher, Robin Lilarose, who personalized my education and gave me opportunities to grow,” she said. “I was a section leader in The Pride of The Valley Marching Band with Dr. [Chris] Heffner. I conducted the pit orchestra for Wig and Buckle Theater, performed in flute ensemble, jazz band, symphonic band, orchestra, and concert choir. I even had a radio show for a semester. I signed up for anything that would give me the knowledge and skills to better teach students.”

Because of her music access and education work in Newark, Brodhead received the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award at the 2019 Symposium on Music in Schools at the Yale School of Music in New Haven, Conn. She is one of five music educators and five teaching artists from across the country honored with the award. In June, the award winners discussed music educator and teaching artist training to help Yale compile a list of recommendations for colleges and universities.


Photo credit: Matthew Fried.

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