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Katherine Snyder, an honors music education major, earned recognition as the High Index Senior for the UD Class of 2024 for a combination of a 4.0 GPA with the highest number of earned hours taken in residence at UD.
Katherine Snyder, an honors music education major, earned recognition as the High Index Senior for the UD Class of 2024 for a combination of a 4.0 GPA with the highest number of earned hours taken in residence at UD.

2024 High Index Senior

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

UD music education major Katherine Snyder earns University recognition and hopes to inspire next generation of musicians

If there’s a statement Katherine Snyder couldn’t disagree with more, it’s this: “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”

Snyder learned not only how to play 15 instruments but also how to teach them during her four years at the University of Delaware — and she did it all while being at the top of her class.

“Teachers have to be the most experienced in what they do because they're passing their knowledge on to other people,” Snyder said. “Music educators are some of the most well-rounded and brightest people. It’s definitely a huge misconception that music education is easy. It's not. It's a lot of work. You're training not only to be a musician for yourself, but also for your students.”

Snyder, an honors music education student who earned a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) after taking 180 total credits during her time at UD, will be recognized as the High Index Senior among her graduating peers at the University’s Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 25.

The award recognizes the graduating senior who has achieved the highest grade-point index, earned in full-time study toward a degree, which combines grade point average with the highest number of earned hours taken in residence at UD. Blue Hens earning a single degree must complete their program in four years, and students pursuing multiple, simultaneous degrees must complete their studies in five years or less.

Snyder has known she wanted to be a music teacher since she was in second grade. Her music teachers throughout elementary, middle and high school — most of whom she still remains in touch with today — had a profound impact on her. In elementary school, her band instructor played the Mario theme song on the trombone, inspiring her to choose that as her primary instrument.

“They had such a huge impact on me, and I wanted to be able to do that for somebody else,” she said.

Snyder said band gave her a sense of belonging in school. It gave her a chance to shine as an individual but also taught her the importance of being a part of something bigger than herself.

“Music is a very special thing,” Snyder said. “I think a lot of people underestimate the impact that arts can have on a kid, especially for students who maybe feel outcast or who feel like they can't quite find their place in the world. Music can provide them a place to do just that and find who they are and really explore their creative passions.”

Working with elementary and middle school students during her student-teaching placements was especially rewarding, Snyder said. She was at each school for just seven weeks, but during that short period of time, she was able to teach a student how to play the flute and see another student excel at the saxophone and come into his own with jazz improvisation.

“Working with the kids and seeing their growth over such a short period of time was the most awesome part about what I did,” Snyder said. “What's really important to understand about music education is that we're not training kids to grow up and become a professional flautist — we're training kids to grow up and be people.”

Indeed, band teaches students how to be part of a team, how to value others’ time, how to put your best self forward, how to speak up for yourself and how to project your talents, Snyder said.

“There's more than just musicality that goes into being a band student or being a musician. Even if they don't choose to pursue music in the long term, if they take those skills that they've learned in band and apply them to whatever they do — that's the most important thing,” Snyder said. “I think that was what really drove me to choose music education, because my teachers taught me how to be the best version of myself.”

After earning her degree from UD, Snyder is prepared to teach any kind of music — general music, band, chorus, orchestra and more — at the K-12 level. She’s currently looking for a teaching job in the mid-Atlantic region. While she’d be happy teaching students of any age, she’d especially like to teach middle school students.

“[Middle school students] are at such an important stage in their development as people, and middle school is really where you begin to find yourself,” she said. “I think a lot of kids tend to get lost in middle school, and band really gives them a place.”

Snyder applied to seven universities and got into all of them, but she ultimately chose UD because of the connection she made with Bruce Tychinski, professor of trombone, with whom she worked closely throughout her four years at UD. 

As a Spanish minor, it was also important to Snyder to study abroad during her college years, and UD’s Winter Session provided her a chance to study in Argentina during her junior year, which she said was the highlight of her college experience. She plans to take what she learned from her Spanish classes and study abroad experience and infuse that into her music classes as a teacher.

“Infusing Spanish culture and other cultures into the music classroom and having my classroom be culturally diverse is very important to me,” she said. “I want to show kids that there's more to music than Mozart and Beethoven.”

Snyder knew she had a 4.0 GPA but had no idea she was even in the running for the High Index Senior award. 

“A lot of musicians don't understand their own worth, or they have imposter syndrome, and I’ve definitely experienced that myself,” she said. “This award is really special and shows me, and hopefully shows other musicians, that pursuing your passions is worthy.”

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