Music has always played a central role in Catherine Howland’s life. She sang in church choirs and was a member of the band in middle and high school in her hometown of Central, South Carolina.
She arrived at the University of South Carolina as a vocal performance major and excelled in the School of Music and the South Carolina Honors College. And when she had the opportunity to be the assistant director of the children’s choir at St. Peter’s Basilica in Columbia, she learned that she could combine her passion with a new calling.
“I love performance. I also discovered through this great opportunity that I love teaching, as well,” Howland says.
She decided to change her major to choral music education, figuring she could continue musical performance even if she graduated with a different major. And she also would learn to lead a classroom of students.
In December, Howland will earn her Bachelor of Music degree with an emphasis in music education summa cum laude, having been named to the President’s List for earning a 4.0 every semester of her college career. She also will be receiving a performance certificate and graduating with distinction in music performance.
This past semester, she completed her student teaching in Lexington County elementary and high schools, and she has accepted a position as a choir teacher at a middle school in South Carolina starting in January.
She is looking forward to teaching middle school students, saying those formative years — when students straddle the line between child and teen — can greatly influence the way a person learns and develops. And she’s drawn to teaching chorus to young people, partly because of the role music and chorus can play in a student’s life.
“For some students, choir is the place for them. They get something from choir that they might not be getting in other areas of school,” she says. “You get to make an impact on those students who find a home in choir.”
Howland says she was drawn to UofSC by the excellent reputation of the School of Music and the Honors College. Once she arrived on campus, she jumped into both.
She was heavily involved in Opera at USC, playing the lead role in the opera Susannah in Fall 2019. “That was a pivotal experience in my time here. I loved everything about the opera experience. You get to sing, act, discover a character, collaborate with other singers and an orchestra,” she says. “There is just something about that feeling of being on stage.”
I love performance. I also discovered through this great opportunity that I love teaching, as well.
Catherine Howland, graduate, School of Music, South Caroina Honors College
She also served as president of the UofSC chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, the international music fraternity.
The Honors College provided some of Howland’s favorite classes — in areas far from her major. She points to a neuroscience class and creative writing as two highlights, and her senior thesis also was a positive experience, giving her the opportunity to do hands-on research in music psychology.
“I’m interested in doing research in the future, so being able to do it as an undergraduate was a great opportunity.”
Another opportunity she earned was her selection as one of 25 students from across the country to attend the Eastman Leadership Academy at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where passionate and dedicated musicians gather to focus on topics such as innovation in the arts, application of entrepreneurial thinking and business skills.
The new year will find her in a middle school classroom, but she’s hoping to earn a master’s degree in the next five years and a doctorate in 15. She’s interested in eventually teaching at the college level, “but that’s many steps down the line,” she says.