• Go Beavers!!!

The face behind the music: Stephanie Hawkins

12 April 2019

For as long as she can remember, Stephanie Hawkins has been hooked on the piano. When she was four years old, she would visit her grandmother’s friend to watch her play and even strike the keys a little herself. Sunday mornings were spent with both eyes and ears focused on PBS, where an organist performed a weekly concert to all those who would listen. She even convinced her parents to buy a baby grand piano sold by Skyline High School, which was eventually housed in her bedroom in an old school house in Sawyer. She could wake up and play music, then go to bed and play music. It was no surprise when her passion morphed into a career, though it was not becoming the next Liberace - her original dream noted down on a junior high school paper. Instead, she makes an impact sharing her passion and educating others by teaching the wonderful sound of music.

Hawkins recently was an elementary music teacher for USD 361 for eight years. She currently runs a private music studio in Medicine Lodge that at one time had 26 students, where she teaches piano and voice. In 2017, she was approached by Misty Beck, PCC Drama and Theatre Instructor, to play as an accompanist for the choir.

“I said sure,” said Hawkins. “I thought I could fit it in and it became one of my five jobs that I was doing.”

The choir and band instructor position at PCC opened up while she was an accompanist, so she was asked if she could adjunct starting in January 2018. The following April, she was hired full time.

Hawkins wears many hats, literally and figuratively, as the current instructor of Introduction to Music, Pep Band, and Encore!. She also directs a community choir and conducts private piano lessons. Her PCC journey technically began when she was a student herself involved in choir, band, and show choir. At the time, the music program was among the top programs in the state – something she would like to bring it back to.

“In 1987 to 1988, the PCC music department was one of the most outstanding in the state of Kansas,” said Hawkins. “I want to be back there. We were recognized as having the best two year college music department and the best music programs overall in the state. I want that to be us again. It’s on my bucket list.”

Her five year plan includes building up the band, which currently only has seven members. The band has open enrollment, meaning anyone in the community can join and can earn credit hours if they would like. She hopes to add enough members to play at home basketball games again, as well as enough people to play jazz music and participate in smaller ensembles at concerts throughout the year.

“I know it’s been sad for me and for others that have gone to the games with no band,” said Hawkins. “The band makes a big difference. It helps keep the spectators going. The rhythm and adrenaline with the band playing upbeat and peppy songs while the spectators are clapping and screaming along – that’s when you affect the players I believe. I’m looking forward to building the program.”

In addition to an open enrollment band, Hawkins is also working on building the community choir.

“I want more community members,” said Hawkins. “Let’s get some more voices. The more the merrier! There’s nothing better as a pianist being surrounded by voices.”

She would like to incorporate both groups into the various concerts held at PCC throughout the year, such as the Broadway, USO, and Christmas shows, as well as the Finale concert held at the end of the spring semester. In addition, she would like to perform at community events, such as the carnival at Pratt Regional Rehab Center and going on an area high school tour to promote the programs.

“The show choir currently does school tours,” said Hawkins. “If we had a band, I would like to perform at the schools like we did when I was a student here. This year, we are going to take our show choir on a school tour and hit general areas such as Stafford, Kingman, and so on. Last year, we took Encore! on a church segment, including my church in Medicine Lodge to perform one evening and it had a great response. I’m hoping we can go again.”

Along with directing the show choir, community choir, and band, Hawkins also teaches Introduction to Music. She has several musicians of various backgrounds visit the class to share their experiences. One guest includes her nephew, Aaron Woods, who speaks about the business aspect of being a musician. Other guests include Tammy Thimesch, who brings a variety of instruments for the students to try out.

Whatever she is teaching or directing, Hawkins’s favorite aspect of her job are the students she shares her knowledge with.

“Connecting with the students and seeing their faces light up is my favorite thing about being an instructor,” said Hawkins. “The connections I have made are awesome. I want to be that shining light in their lives that they can always come to, but in turn they are like my shining light.”

Next fall, the band will meet twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 3:25 p.m., while the choir will meet once a week on Mondays from 3:30 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. Those interested in joining can contact Hawkins at stephanieh@prattcc.edu or 620-450-2183.