Posting Date: February 19, 2014

Meet Shannan O’Dowd: A choral conductor in the making

By Zola Matingu


Shannan O'Dowd

Photo by Shane McDonald

Shannan O’Dowd started to sing before she could even speak. Now, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native has taken that passion and is making it into a career.


Her interest in music came from her mother, who exposed her to all genres of music from the 1950’s through today. Her mother plays the trumpet, and Shannan plays piano and guitar and also sings. She led an acappella group while in high school, and she vows to find one while she is here at KSU.


At first, Shannan was on the fence about what she wanted to study at KSU; Adam Kirkpatrick, Associate Professor of Voice, gave her a tour of the music department while she was still a high school student. She decided to come to KSU’s School of Music because she felt the environment was a perfect match for her personality. She initially wanted to focus on music therapy, but decided instead to pursue music education and vocal performance.


Shannan’s love of music has deepened since she became a student at KSU, and several KSU professors have noticed it. Among them is Leslie Blackwell, Associate Professor of Music and Music Education, who has witnessed Shannan grow to become a student with tremendous talent and potential: “Shannan is very gifted in music. I have seen her hone her skills as a performer, an artist and a musician,” says Blackwell.


Shannan attributes her growth to Blackwell’s mentorship and encouragement. Blackwell says, “It is always a huge compliment when students regard your work together as influential in their lives and their education. Shannan hopes to be a choral conductor in the future, and my aim is to aid her in that journey. She is a student with extremely high aspirations, and this is evident in her work ethic in all her classes. She is a natural leader, vocally gifted, and is passionate about teaching and music. This dedication to the art of music is essential for a future music educator.”


Shannan‘s journey of studying music will likely continue beyond KSU; after getting her Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in choral music education, she hopes to pursue music therapy or vocal performance in graduate school. Ultimately, she wants to use music astherapy for children with illnesses or special needs. With her musical background and the music knowledge she has acquired thus far at KSU, Shannan is prepared to make her mark in music.


Her advice to future students choosing her major? “Be prepared for an intense schedule, and make sure you know what you want to do, especially in music education. Many people choose this major casually, not really knowing what it entails and the commitment they have to make to be successful in it. You have to realize that you are affecting many lives with your skills; this is an all or nothing major, and you have to love it.”



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