Neag School Class of 2024 Student Profile: Kaitlyn Neumann

“I am a first-generation college student, so it has always been a goal of mine to graduate from a university like UConn with a degree in something that I love. ”

Kaitlyn Neumann

(Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Neumann)

Editor’s Note: As Commencement approaches, we are featuring some of our Neag School Class of 2024 graduating students over the coming days.

BS, Music Education
Plainfield, Connecticut

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose UConn for a few reasons. At first, I planned on going to UConn because it was close enough to commute. I have always been a commuter because I knew commuting would be the best financial option. I am a first-generation college student, so it has always been a goal of mine to graduate from a university like UConn with a degree in something that I love.

After I attended an open house in the fall of my senior year, I instantly felt like UConn was my home. Part of that came from the students I met that day, but most of it came from the professors I met.

What’s your major or field of study, and what drew you to it?

My major is music education. My high school choir teacher, Brian Stevenson, is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. He is a wonderful teacher but an even better human being. Brian is the person who sparked my love for music. With all of that being said, I decided at the very last second to study music. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher; I just did not know what to teach. I thought math or English, but neither of those felt right. In my senior year of high school, we had Emily Lattanzi, a fifth-year music education student from UConn, in my music classes. Emily saw my passion for music before I did and encouraged me to at least audition for the music program at UConn. With support from Brian and Emily, I took that step, and now we are here!

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

This question is nearly impossible to answer. To ask me to pick between my music education professors, Dr. Cara Bernard and Dr. Joseph Abramo, would be like asking me to pick between my parents. They have taught me everything I know and have been two of my biggest supporters over the past four years.

If I were to rephrase this question as “Did you have a professor who changed your life?” my answer would be Dr. Jamie Spillane. Dr. Spillane was the first professor that I met when I came to open house. I went to him searching for a song to sing at my audition. His response was bringing me to his office, walking me through one of his songbooks, and then lending me the book to pick and practice a song. On that day, I felt seen, respected, and welcome. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college. In addition to being my choir professor, Dr. Spillane is also my faculty advisor. I came in behind my peers in terms of knowing how to read music, so I was struggling with content and feeling like I was good enough to be in college in general, let alone a music education student. I went to him in tears with plans of dropping out. He dropped everything he did to sit with me for an hour. We talked through my feelings, and he offered wonderful advice and reminded me that “everyone has their gifts. It’s easier to see the gifts of others than it is to acknowledge your own”. Dr. Spillane reminded me of my gifts and encouraged me to stay longer. We started doing weekly check-ins after that day, and when I ran to his office with my first 95% on a music theory test, he shared that he was insanely proud of me with tears in his eyes. I replay that moment in my mind whenever I find myself struggling.

From that point on, Dr. Spillane was my person. I still go to Dr. Spillane for advice and support. I likely always will. Dr. Spillane is the reason that I am graduating this May. Dr. Spillane improved my life, and I am beyond grateful to have such a wonderful human being in my life.

UConn has prepared me for the next chapter in my life by providing wonderful courses focused on my career. — Kaitlyn Neumann

What activities were you involved in as a student?

In my time at UConn, I was president for two years and fundraising chair for one year of the UConn American Choral Directors Association. I was also vice president for one year and fundraising chair for one year of the UConn Choir Board. In addition to those, I was on the Music Student Advisory Council and a music representative for The Major Experience.

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?

One thing that surprised me about UConn is that I always felt involved and supported as a commuter student. I was warned when starting college that I would “miss out” on the college experience as a commuter. However, there is always someone to talk to, someone to smile and laugh with, someone to hug, and someone to work with. Being a music education student gave me a community of friends who turned into family.

What are your plans after graduation/receiving your degree?

After graduation, I will return to UConn for my master’s degree. Following that year, I plan on finding a job as a music teacher.

How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?

UConn has prepared me for the next chapter in my life by providing wonderful courses focused on my career. Additionally, we have had wonderful opportunities in clinical placements to observe and teach in the classroom as students. This real-life experience has helped to prepare us for our future! I met some of my favorite human beings in those clinical and student teaching placements. I learned from the best music educators, who are even better human beings. I am so lucky to have these music educators as my mentors, support system, and family now.

Any advice for incoming students?

My advice for incoming students is to build relationships with their professors. Take the time to talk to them about life outside of class. Ask questions. Learn about their journey. Your professors are your strongest allies, your support system, and, if you luck out like I did, your chosen family. As I have mentioned in multiple responses, I have so many chosen family members now because of my time at UConn. Allow yourself the opportunity to expand your family.

What’s one thing everyone should do during their time at UConn?

Everyone should plan one night a week to have a “family dinner” with their friends. I loved going to the pasta bar and watching the sunset on Horsebarn Hill with my friends.

What will always make you think of UConn?

Two songs: the UConn “Alma Mater” and “Unclouded Day” arranged by Shawn Kirchner. The “Alma Mater” is self-explanatory, but I loved singing it at all of the UConn Bound Days, Open House, and our Family Weekend Concert. “Unclouded Day” was a UConn Choirs staple while I was in choir. We sang it for my first in-person concert at UConn and then again on a choir tour.