By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN The importance of music in education brought a special visit from Miss Minnesota Brooke Kilgarriff to Delano Elementary School Wednesday.
Third grade teacher Leah (Sinkel) Petersen is in the process of obtaining her master’s degree in elementary education, and is writing her thesis on “the importance of music in education.”
“Research suggests that music can positively affect a child’s brain development,” Petersen said. “Music can be used as a tool to increase a child’s mathematical thinking. Part of my studies and research is to interview other music educators and integrate their theories into my classroom.”
Enter Kilgarriff into the picture. Kilgarriff’s platform “Music: The Building Blocks of Education,” speaks to children, educating and exciting them about the joys of music.
Petersen invited Kilgarriff, 21, to speak to all seven sections of Delano Elementary third graders about the importance of music in education, and she spoke about how music helps one learn, and ways to implement music into the learning process, and attain a lifelong love for music.
“Miss Minnesota was very informative, and motivated the third graders to use music in all subject areas,” Petersen said. “The third grade students enjoyed her tremendously. They loved her stories, how she taught them to use music in math, and especially the musical games they played together.”
As a result of her visit, Petersen’s class will be incorporating music into their subject areas to help them learn and memorize concepts that are otherwise difficult for many students.
When Kilgarriff began getting ready to compete for Miss Minnesota, she knew she had to choose a platform, but she didn’t simply want to make something up.
“I wanted to have something that was just natural to me, so I looked at everything I was really passionate about and what I had volunteered for, and it was all music,” Kilgarriff explained after her visit.
It then became easy for her to take what she had already accomplished and make it more specific. She has already been able to go to 35 different classrooms across the state, and has given more than 3,000 students her message about why music is so important.
She said not only is she thankful to talk about that, but also for the chance to work with children, and ultimately prepare for her future.
“This is really helping me with my teaching,” she said. “Once you get in front of your actual class, I think that’s the best way to prepare you to be a teacher.”
For Kilgarriff, teaching, along with being in the spotlight, comes naturally.
“I started getting involved with performing when I was in high school,” Kilgarriff said. “I was on ‘American Idol,’ so that’s kind of my 15 minutes, or claim to fame.”
She decided to compete for Miss Minnesota when she attended the pageant in 2008 because she had a friend who was performing. During the talent portion, she turned to her mother, Chris, and told her that she felt that was something she could do and wanted to do.
“And, she goes, ‘I dare you,’” Kilgarriff said with a smile. “So I took that challenge, and it was ‘let’s do this.’”
She entered Miss Twin Cities in October 2008 and received the crown, and then went on to win Miss Minnesota June 20 at Eden Prairie High School.
“It started out as a dare, but Miss America is one of the largest scholarship programs for women today,” Kilgarriff said. “We’re embodying what women are challenging with ourselves and celebrating what we can accomplish it’s been a wonderful opportunity.”
Kilgarriff was born in Pittsfield, MA, and her family moved to Eagan when she was 4 years old. The next 16 years were spent growing up Minnesotan.
“When I was in elementary school and middle school, I was big into music and playing instruments, but I was more so the soccer player that was kind of like my forté. Then, when I was in high school, I started really transitioning over into the arts. I was playing six different instruments when I first went in there, then I started to sing and started doing the plays.”
Kilgarriff said she has always enjoyed singing, but said she had a very influential choir teacher, Judy Sagen, that really motivated her to make the transition toward the fine arts.
“She was the one who really, really encouraged me,” Kilgarriff said. “She was the one that told me that I had a voice. She knew even before my parents did.”
Despite the encouragement from Sagen, Kilgarriff said her first choir audition didn’t go very well.
“I was the girl that was so nervous to sing that I forgot the words to ‘Happy Birthday,’ for my first choir audition,” Kilgarriff said with a laugh. “People still don’t believe that because of where I’m at now for singing.”
She graduated from Eastview High School in Apple Valley in 2006. She now attends school at the Boston Conservatory, and is a musical theatre major.
She plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts musical theatre and a five-year masters of music education degree, which means she’ll be licensed to teach kindergarten through 12th grades.
“That’s my favorite part,” Kilgarriff said. “It changes day by day, but in a perfect world, I’d teach by day, and perform at night. I’ve been traveling the entire state teaching in a bunch of different schools, so I know what grade I’d be interested in. I love the little kindergartners and think they’re so much fun. I’d love to do elementary music.”
Kilgarriff now gets to travel the state of Minnesota and serves as an ambassador for Gilette Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network.
“I also get to promote my platform: music, the building blocks of education, which is what brought me here to Delano to share about why music in education is so important, why to start at an early age, and just get kids excited about the art.”
Kilgarriff: ‘American Idol’ season five
It was 2006, and it was the year of Taylor Hicks, Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtry, and Katharine McPhee.
Even though Kilgarriff’s name isn’t as well known as those mentioned above, yet, she is thankful for her opportunity to have been on the show and for the doors it has opened for her.
“I was only 16 at the time,” Kilgarriff said. “Katharine McPhee sat next to me every single round, so I got to know her really well.”
Kilgarriff was in San Francisco, CA checking out potential colleges, and her mother called her while she was there and told her she should audition for “American Idol.” She made it into the top 60 contestants.
“I didn’t even know about it,” Kilgarriff said. “She was the one that was like, ‘come on, just do it,’ so I gave it a try and I didn’t have any expectations. I kept making it through all these rounds and I had no idea what was happening. Then, all the sudden, I found myself in front of (judges) Simon (Cowell), Paula (Abdul), and Randy (Jackson), and got my golden ticket and went to Hollywood, and that was probably the most intense couple weeks of my life.”
Kilgarriff showed Delano third graders her “golden ticket” that allowed her to go to Hollywood and be on the hit show.
“I don’t take anything back at all,” Kilgarriff said. “I learned so much from it, and even though I didn’t win, it’s still kind of propelling me in my music career as of right now. It puts one foot ahead of everyone else.”
She has kept in touch with Pickler and said, right before Daughtry went on stage before one of the rounds, he forgot the words to the song, so Kilgarriff had to tell him what they were.
“I like to say that I helped him do so well,” she said with a laugh.
Preparing for Miss America and volunteering
The two biggest things Kilgarriff focuses on now are getting ready for Miss America, which is Saturday, Jan. 30 in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood on TLC at 8 p.m. She said there will also be a one-hour special highlighting what the candidates have done throughout the week that airs Friday, Jan. 29.
“The third graders and their teachers are keeping their fingers crossed for Miss Minnesota as she competes in the Miss America Pageant on Jan. 30,” Petersen said.
The other thing she is focusing on is promoting her CD “Carry You Through,” which a three-song CD, and benefits the Children’s Miracle Network.
One song on the disc is her version of the Rascal Flatts hit “My Wish,” and the other two are originals written by “American Idol” writers. The cost is $10 and proceeds go right to Children’s Miracle Network. To date, Kilgarriff has raised more than $7,000, and has a goal of hitting $10,000.
A big event is set for the Mall of America at the Best Buy Rotunda Sunday, Nov. 29 from 1 to 3 p.m., when Kilgarriff will perform, sell CDs, and also have children speak about the program.
“The great thing about the Miss America organization is they don’t charge you to be a part of the program,” Kilgarriff explained. “You have to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network.”
She wanted to see where the money she was raising was going, so she volunteered, and said she “got hooked.”
“These kids are incredible,” she said. “It just makes you really rethink what you think is an issue in your life, because of what these kids are overcoming.”
For more information, visit www.musicbuildingblocks.com or www.missminnesota.org.
Petersen appreciates Kilgarriff’s visit
Petersen said she was excited to be able to bring Kilgarriff to Delano Elementary School.
“It was a unique opportunity for the students to be able to talk with a public personality who attributes her success to her excellent education and music background,” Petersen said. “She made the kids feel like anything is possible.”
The Delano American Legion Auxiliary, the Loretto Lions Club, the Delano Loretto United Way, and the Delano General Federated Women’s Club helped make Kilgarriff’s visit possible.