Miki Lynn has master’s degrees in Music Performance and Opera Directing, as well as a PhD in Interdisciplinary Theater and Music, yet she chooses to spend her day instilling the love of music in kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade students at Kurth Primary. People ask her often how she gets such young children to sing three-part harmony in foreign languages, and she tells them, “They don’t know they can’t.” Dr. Lynn’s mother, who was an educated, hard worker, inspired her “The sky is the limit!” mentality.
Dr. Lynn said, “We grew up in West Kentucky near Paducah. We were bused to a county school. I had about 500 in my graduating class. It took 30 minutes by bus to get there. We lived about twelve miles out of town. I had nine siblings. It was normal for me to have people around. Everything is ramped up. There is more conflict but also more companionship and adventure. We were close knit. I grew up on a farm and raised cows, goats, chickens, and had a garden.”
Dr. Lynn’s father was on disability so her mother ran the farm.
She said, “We were the poorest of the poor and were very aware. My mother was an educated woman. She finished high school, which was not the standard then. She had ambition for our education. We were very poor but not lacking for resources.”
Dr. Lynn’s mother made sure the children went to school and were prepared to be successful. As a result, Dr. Lynn and her siblings had no excuses and are all successful today.
She said, “My mother was a very hard worker, intelligent, self-learner – her whole life. She took a theology correspondence course and received a certificate. She instilled in me constantly seeking new knowledge. She would say, ‘If other people figured it out, I can, too.'”
Her mother also emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with music.
She said, “My mother was musical. She still plays the organ in her church. I took piano lessons. She made lots of sacrifices. She made a little go a long way. I was lucky in birth order. There was more money and time when I came along.”
Dr. Lynn showed musical aptitude early. She was “discovered” in a talent show of sorts in her elementary school classroom.
“I was very quiet in elementary. The kind of student that you might not even know I was there. I had an elementary teacher that had a talent day and everyone was going to do something. I was not prepared. I sang a John Denver song a cappella from memory. She then put me up for a solo in the Christmas play. Opportunities kept coming. I started performing gospel. In high school, I was in the choir and band. I played the euphonium.”
She had so many fine arts credits in high school, she had to work with school administrators to formulate a degree plan for her graduation. The administration was confident in her future plans and helped her make her credits work. Some of that musical talent could quite possibly be inherited from her grandfather who was a singing cowboy that performed on the radio.
She said, “All of the family is musical. It must be in the water. There were five, now four siblings because I had a sister pass away in February, play in a bluegrass/gospel group called “Grandpa’s Legacy”. My grandpa was a singing cowboy on the radio. We sang together in church. My sisters would play the organ and piano.”
Dr. Lynn attended Murray State University. She married between her sophomore and junior year of college. She then went to Kansas State University where she received a bachelor’s and master’s in Music Performance. When her husband got out of the army, she went to the University of Iowa and received a second master’s in Opera Directing and PhD in Interdisciplinary Theater and Music. She described her doctorate curriculum as “carte blanche” where she had the freedom to create her own curriculum. Her husband took a job at Stephen F. Austin State University as a Trombone Professor.
She said, “We are no longer together, he teaches at Northwestern in Louisiana, but I rooted here. I worked in SFA’s administration in the Arts Information Office and would teach on the side. I taught private lessons since I was a freshman in college. A friend needed a music teacher, so I worked at Christ Episcopal for four years. I really loved teaching.”
She said she was surprised at how much she loved working with the little ones.
“I didn’t know that about myself. They’re not jaded or cynical. Their brains are so hungry. It’s so fun to craft lessons and instill a joy in them and to watch the “aha” moments. The discipline to learn to play a musical instrument is in direct correlation with higher math. You don’t get to quit when it gets hard. You practice, practice, and repeat it. It’s tons of fun. I’m getting them ready. I’m preparing them for band and choir, but not only that but to appreciate music. Music makes life more bearable. As an adult, they will be more successful and have more joy in their lives. ”
Dr. Lynn has six children, four by birth, ranging in ages from 19 to 31 and five grandchildren. All are musical. She loves to garden claiming it’s for both mental and physical health. She is planning to help construct a garden at Kurth Primary that would help the students get involved in planting and growing vegetation.
She said, “I just harvested beets. It’s a Zen place for me.”
As far as her favorite music genre, Dr. Lynn says that she doesn’t listen to the radio. She claims it’s too limiting.
She said, “I have thousands of CD’s from Medieval Latin to just discovered bluegrass and folk music. I love a cappella singing. It allows the singer to be expressive. This style of music is dying. I love the storytelling of the mountain music. Heritage music is also dying.”
Dr. Lynn appreciates the support of Lufkin ISD and Lori Meadows who helps the music teachers across the district.
“This District is the best district for support materials and resources. I have software that is interactive and fun for them. They are learning and they don’t know it. We have wonderful resources. The material is not getting stale.”
When asked how many instruments she plays she said, “I’ve lost track!”
She introduces her instruments to her students. She has an ‘Instrument of the Week’. She brings instruments like her violin to school for the students to see, touch, and play.
Dr. Lynn loves to travel and even performed a mini-concert in Italy two years ago. She still performs locally in a two-to-three piece band. As a matter of fact, she’ll be playing the guitar and singing Christmas songs in the Mill Room at Banita Creek Hall in Nacogdoches on December 19th.
Thank you, Dr. Lynn, for sharing your talent with our little learners. Your expertise and desire to teach music is pure gold.