Gustavus Junior, Mikayla Bohner, Wins International Award Posted on March 18th, 2023 by

Mikayla Bohner, a junior studying Music Education, has been named the 2022 recipient of Women Band Director International’s Volkwein Memorial Scholarship. This award typically goes to graduate students, highlighting Bohner’s dedication to her field. 

Dr. James Patrick Miller, Director of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, explains the significance of this award. 

“Women Band Directors International is one of the most respected organizations in the music education field,” said Miller. “These awards usually go to doctoral and masters students, so receiving the award not only as an undergraduate but as a student in her junior year is a testament to Mikayla’s drive and dedication.”

Reflecting on the experience of applying for the award, Bohner explains that the impact of growing up in a rural community directly led to where she is today. 

“I came from a small town, and I saw firsthand how a teacher can have a significant impact on the life of kids,” said Bohner. “In 10th grade, my director talked about how he took an instrument tech class in college where you learn to play all the instruments. I didn’t know you could have a career where you learned to do that.”

That moment launched Bohner into the world of conducting and music education. She emphasizes the impact that seeing diversity and inclusion in the profession has had on her–one of Women Band Directors International’s goals in creating these awards. 

When I saw Dr. Heidi Miller on the podium for the first time, there was a weird moment where I pictured myself in her place,” said Bohner. “I saw the way she leads the band and has a family, with her kids sometimes even coming to rehearsal and learning with us, and it gives me hope that maybe someday I’ll do the same.”

While Bohner has found inspiration at Gustavus, Dr. James Patrick Miller highlights the difference that Bohner herself is making on campus. 

“Gustavus recently opened a Conducting Honors program – one of the only undergraduate conducting programs in the country – and Mikayla was one of the first students to apply,” said Miller. “She takes every opportunity available to her to in order to grow as a professional and as a leader. While she’s driven and dedicated, she’s also kind and humble. Other students–both current and prospective–see what she’s doing and accomplishing, and they look up to that.”

Bohner is one of only two undergraduate students to receive this competitive award, and the only one from a liberal arts college. Miller explains that a liberal arts education is extremely beneficial for students like Bohner, who are dedicated students but have well-rounded passions. 

“Why Gustavus? The first reason is that a liberal arts education means having the freedom of choice. Gustavus offers many opportunities, but it is up to the students to choose to take advantage of them. Mikayla always chooses to do many things and she does them really well,” said Miller, who shared that Mikayla is also an involved athlete at Gustavus. “ The second is community. At Gustavus, music majors sit down next to biochemistry majors who sit next to nursing majors, and so on. But with 40% of students involved in music, while they are all different majors, they come together as musicians, working together and collaborating.”

Bohner agrees, highlighting the way the community that the Gustavus music department develops.

“I have way too much to say about the Gustavus music department. It’s the most supportive community I’ve ever been a part of,” said Bohner. “Its’ very unique we get so many people who aren’t music majors in the top band and still play music of such high quality. At Gustavus, everyone belongs in the band.”

Moving forward, Bohner plans to use the scholarship to attend a conducting symposium. She hopes to develop as a conductor and make connections with professionals from across the country. After graduation she intends to start her career by teaching middle or high school band in a rural community. 

“I want to give kids the best musical experience they can. There’s a stereotype or assumption that good music can only happen in big schools,” said Bohner. “Good music making can happen anywhere, with the right philosophy and time.” 

To see Bohner’s award profile with Women Band Directors International, visit here


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