For Southeast Missouri State University's recent graduate Rachel Richardson, music is personal – it has shaped her life into that of a professional musician.

Music has not only guided her to a professional career, but kindled a passion to teach others and inspired her higher education journey. Richardson, of Hillsboro, Missouri, graduated from Southeast this spring with a Bachelor of Music Education in instrumental music. 

While at Southeast, Richardson has twice been named alternate winner of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Young Artist solo competition in 2020 and 2021; been a finalist for the Southeast and Northeast horn workshop collegiate solo competitions; and been a 2020 and 2021 finalist for the Southeast Symphony Orchestra concerto competition. She has also performed in numerous masterclasses with renowned artists from across the nation. 


She has also played principal and section horn in every ensemble that Southeast has to offer . She has served as student assistant and drum major in the Southeast Marching Band and taught for the Southeast Music Academy.

Her time at Southeast has helped prepare her for her next steps – pursuing a Master of Music in horn performance at Colorado State University. She hopes to continue her professional career while continuing to teach. 

“If I’ve learned anything while being in college, especially as a music education major, it’s that you just have to go with the flow a lot,” she said. “The only thing you truly have control over is yourself. I can’t control the outside factors such as what opportunities I might be offered. I can only control myself and how I prepare myself for those opportunities when they come up. I have very broad branches of where I might go, but I am going with the flow and just seeing where life takes me, whether that’s towards a professional performing career, K-12 teaching, or maybe even straight through to my doctorate then teaching college.”

The music faculty are amazing and so dedicated to their students. I am fortunate enough to have gotten to know just about every one of them and know they are mentors I can still contact long after I graduate Southeast.

Rachel Richardson, Southeast Alum

Hear More from Rachel

How does it feel to be a graduate from Southeast?

It feels good because I’m accomplishing this degree. I have truly enjoyed my time at Southeast, and I am sad to leave the River Campus. It is a paradise for any artist, and I’ve realized how fortunate we are to have this facility while looking at other schools for my master’s degree.

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

During my junior year of high school, my band attended the St. Louis Regional Bands of America competition. This competition features top notch high school bands from the area. One band from Colorado took the field and by the end, I was in tears. It was an epiphany moment for me, and I finally realized how much music meant to me. Their moving show made me feel so many emotions. I already knew I liked teaching others through the A+ program and tutoring elementary students after school. At this point, it felt like music education was the way to go.

What has been the most memorable musical opportunities you’ve had while at Southeast?

My most memorable competition would be my very first Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) competition. I originally asked Dr. Nicholas Kenney (assistant professor of horn) if I could compete in it for experience. I was struggling with relatively severe performance anxiety at the time and did not feel confident in my horn playing abilities. I had no expectations of actually placing. When I received the email about placements, it felt unreal. I got second, but that was proof to me I was capable of more than I thought.

Why did you choose Southeast?

I chose Southeast because I didn’t feel like I was just going to be a number. Dr. Kenney and Dr. Martin Reynolds (retired associate professor of music and director of bands) put so much effort into me before I had made a decision. At every other school, it felt like I was putting in the effort but not getting anything back – it felt like I was just a statistic they would use someday. At Southeast, everyone I ever met at the River Campus was so friendly and made it immediately feel like home. I felt like I, as an individual, mattered way more than any numbers at Southeast. The faculty has since been amazing, and I am so lucky to have them in my life.

How have your experiences at Southeast prepared you for a career after graduation?

I feel like I got a lot of experiences that other undergraduate students would not get at other schools. Most semesters I was playing in multiple large ensembles as well as taking all necessary music/education classes, along with my personal practice and any chamber work. The undergraduate music program students truly go through a lot to make things happen, and it makes us better prepared for things outside of Southeast because we can handle so much. Most people don’t know, but a lot of music majors will take 18-21 credit hours every semester. And, the ensembles meet anywhere from 4-6 hours a week plus additional performance times but are only shown as one credit hour. I’ve been prepared to work hard wherever I go after Southeast.

What inspired you to continue your education after Southeast, and what are you looking forward to in this next step in your higher education journey?

I felt that this could be a good path for multiple reasons. First, if I can play my horn better and practice being a better performer, then I can also be a better teacher. The saying is that your students are only half the performer that you are as a teacher. I would also like to simply work on myself as a musician and get more experience on the performance side of things to possibly open the performance career route. Second, I’ve noticed a lot of K-12 schools like teachers to have their master's degree. Third, this degree puts me one step closer to my end goal of teaching at the collegiate level. I am looking forward to becoming an even better musician and really putting my work out there in competitions and any other solo performances. It’s not easy being a performer as an education major because of all of the classes you have to take. I’m excited to practice more than ever before in this degree.

Learn More about Rachel's Major

Rachel graduated with a major in musical education, instrumental music.