Class of 2014 Success Stories: When Reality Strikes

By Elizabeth Gladieux

Her lifelong dreams revolved around music. She sat first chair flute in the top band at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, and she was accepted into BGSU’s nationally recognized College of Music, studying Music Education. Kimberly Lewis thought she was right on track to achieve her goals.

“All I ever wanted to do with my life was to be a musician, and help others through music,” said Lewis, a BGSU December graduate. “From the time I can remember, music was a main focus in my life.  I couldn’t imagine myself having a profession that did not involve music.”

Lewis’ parents were band directors in the Tallmadge City Schools all their lives and her brother is now a band director at North Canton – Hoover High School. Lewis remembers asking her parents for dance lessons at age five. By second grade she was taking piano and voice lessons. When fifth grade rolled around, it was only natural she would choose an instrument and join the band. She decided to play the flute.

Fast-forward to her first days at BGSU and the announcement of placement in the BGSU bands her freshman year. “I wasn’t seated in the top band, the Wind Symphony. I wasn’t seated in Concert Band, the second tier band,” said Lewis. “I was seated in the University band, a non-audition based band. I was the lowest ranked flute major at BGSU!”

This placement was a huge blow to Lewis and it made her question where she was headed and what she should do. “This placement was a real reality check for me.”

Three years later, Lewis was seated as second chair flute in the Wind Symphony and will be graduating from BGSU with a double major in Music Education and Music Performance.

How did she make that leap?  “I recognized that I seriously doubted myself and my abilities, and suffered from a great deal of performance anxiety” said Lewis. “I realized I would have to work hard to get better in order to do what I wanted.”

With performance anxiety lurking over her, Lewis decided to find out more about it and how to conquer it.  As part of the Honors program, she worked with Dr. Conor Nelson, assistant professor of flute, and Dr. Kenneth Thompson, chair of music education, to research the subject and complete an honors project. She attended a summer festival and workshop focused on performance anxiety, and carried out extensive research. “This project made me realize I wasn’t alone and that I was in control.  It was up to me to change my reactions to the anxiety,” she said.

The change did not happen overnight. “It wasn’t until I made the finals of the BGSU Concerto Competition during my junior year that I began believing in myself. I didn’t think I was good enough, but I kept trying. No one was more surprised than me when I made the finals! It was in my junior year that I really began enjoying the experience of performing,” said Lewis.

Overcoming performance anxiety was just a first step for Lewis. During one of her flute lessons with Nelson, he asked Lewis if she had considered being a performance major. Initially surprised at the suggestion, Nelson’s proposal propelled Lewis into an even more focused drive for success in music. “I realized that the music world is big and full of many different ways to share music,” Lewis said. So she embarked on a dual major path of music education and music performance.

Lewis gives credit for much of her success to Nelson. “He saw things in me I didn’t see or believe I had.  I didn’t have enough confidence, and he helped to instill in me the confidence that I needed. I don’t know if I could have done it without Dr. Nelson.”  

Nelson has nothing but praise for Lewis. “Majoring in both music education and performance is not for the weak of heart. It is a track that only someone with her exquisite time-management skills, talent and broad interests could possibly manage. We are so proud of her. Kim matured exponentially as a musician and flutist during her time at BGSU.

“Musically, her developments were of epic proportion; in many respects, I have never seen anyone improve so quickly.  She now plays with a sound that belies her years and with an excitement for music that is apparent to all. In tandem with her somewhat shocking musical developments, she also grew as a person, overcoming any obstacle in her way,” noted Nelson. “Kim is a true star. I feel that she could do anything she puts her mind to and I know that she will make the CMA proud.”

Other faculty with whom she worked also noticed Lewis’ abilities. “Kim came to BGSU with a great deal of talent, but with limited experience. She is a perfect example of what a student can achieve if they apply themselves to focused work and diligent study,” said Thompson. “She performed in our third tier ensembles as a freshman, and in four short years advanced to the very top of our undergraduate class, performing in top level ensembles and being recognized as a finalist in our concerto competition. She is an excellent young musician and teacher.”

Lewis will be pursuing a master’s degree in flute performance, and then see what happens next. “I would like to teach flute on a collegiate level, but if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay,” mused Lewis. “It doesn’t matter what level I teach. What matters is that I will be teaching and helping others to have a great musical experience, and sharing my music with as many people as possible. There are so many paths and options ahead of me.”