Reaching the Next Generation with Music Education
An Interview with Miss America Nia Franklin
On September 10, 2018, Miss New York Nia Franklin was crowned the 92nd Miss America. A classically trained opera singer and a member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Nia will advocate for arts education during her tenure as 2019 Miss America. She earned an undergraduate degree in composition from East Carolina University, and a master’s in fine arts from The University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts. Shortly after, Nia was awarded a Kenan Fellowship at New York’s Lincoln Center Education and made the move to New York City. She currently resides in Brooklyn.
Nia has been a teacher and music mentor, and has written over 100 songs, including one she began performing at age five. (The lyrics begin: “Love, love, love, love, love is the only thing that matters to me…”). For the Miss America 2019 competition, Franklin sang “Quando m’en Vo’” from Puccini’s La Boheme and wowed audiences and judges alike.
Recently, Nia spoke with NAfME about her music education experience and vision for music in schools today.
Please tell us about your own music education as a young student.
I grew up with music, specifically choir, in all my years of schooling. I definitely had a firm foundation of music education, and going to choir was always what I looked forward to the most during the school week.
Who inspired you to pursue music? Is there a music educator who particularly had an impact on you?
My music composition professor, Dr. Dillon, at The University of North Carolina School of the Arts was so inspiring to me. His thoughts about music were very similar to mine, so I felt as though I was on the right track in a lot of ways because of that.
What obstacles did you overcome in your pursuit of music?
I considered myself a “late bloomer.” I did not study music theory or music composition at a young age, so in a lot of ways I felt like I was playing catch up in my theory classes and in my understanding of music composition. What helped drive me not to quit was my passion and desire to write music and understand how to notate music. The first two years of theory classes are the hardest, but getting through them is so rewarding.
Believe in your student’s ability to succeed no matter what. You never know which student(s) will go on to teach and/or create music, and you want to pass the torch and encourage them to help the next generation.
Please tell us about your own experience as a teacher. Do any students stand out in your memory, or were there any experiences while teaching that particularly moved you?
One student who I will never forget is Noah. When I first started instructing music in his preschool, he had a fairly short attention span. As the year went on, I was able to get him to focus on the music and become more engaged in what I was teaching. I created one activity where the students could play one note on the piano at the end of class, and they all loved it. This tangible activity was where I began to notice a big difference in their attitudes when it came to paying attention and understanding how music is made.
Why do you believe music education is a critical component for every child’s education?
Music fosters creativity and enhances the development of motor skills at a young age. Music education has benefits for young children and children who are in high school. It’s a confidence-builder and builds a sense of community.
The mission of NAfME is “to advance music education by promoting the understanding and making of music by all.” Could you share your thoughts on this goal for all students?
I’m a firm believer that every student should be exposed to music from a young age. I’m so grateful to not only have had a family that appreciated music as I grew up, but also that I always had music and the arts in my schools.
What words of encouragement do you have for music educators—either new or established teachers?
Believe in your student’s ability to succeed no matter what. You never know which student(s) will go on to teach and/or create music, and you want to pass the torch and encourage them to help the next generation. Even if you can teach them one concept that they can take with them throughout life, you’ve done something right!
Thank you, Nia Franklin, for taking a stand for music education for all students!
Photos courtesy of the Miss America Organization.
Nia Franklin was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and lived in the state through graduate school. She earned an undergraduate degree in music composition from East Carolina University, and a master’s in music composition from The University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts. Shortly after, Nia was awarded a Kenan Fellowship at New York’s Lincoln Center Education and made the move to New York City.
During Nia’s college junior year, her father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and she became his stem cell donor. This turn of events led Nia to the Miss America Organization. “I had to find a way to pay for myself to go to school, and so I entered this competition and this organization, and it became much more than just the scholarship money for me; it was also about the mentorship, leadership, and sisterhood you find in this program.”
Nia was crowned Miss Five Boroughs at the age of 23, and then went on to win Miss New York 2018. She was awarded the job of Miss America 2019 on September 9, 2018.
Throughout her year as Miss America, Nia will be working on her social impact initiative ADVOCATING FOR THE ARTS. Nia speaks with students, school administrators, and teachers about the importance of arts education and why it is so vital to a well-rounded education.
Follow Nia @MissAmerica.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.