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“I lived for Monday night rehearsals,”

says Lindsey Gray Kindl, reflecting on her three years in the AYWS. “Monday nights are tough. I was always tired. High school is not easy. But Dr. Stewart always brought comfort and joy to rehearsal.”

Now, as a music specialist at Jenkins Elementary School in Lawrenceville, GA, Lindsey tries to bring that same comfort and joy to more than 1000 students – from kindergarteners to fifth graders – who participate in her music class every week. “We experience music through singing, dancing, playing, improvising, creating, and composing,” she says.

Before becoming an educator, the University of Georgia graduate was a cast member of the Tony Award-winning musical Blast!, a production inspired by the excitement and energy of drum and bugle corps shows. She performed as part of the 2011-12 USA National Tour, Japanese National Tour and also at the South Korea World Expo.

In part, the commitment and discipline Lindsey needed to thrive as a professional performer was developed as a member of AYWS. She specifically remembers the intensity of the ensemble’s rehearsals in advance of its 2004 performance at Carnegie Hall. “The rehearsals leading up to this performance were grueling but focused,” she explains. “It showed me what intense hard work within an ensemble could feel like.”

In addition to valuing the challenging rehearsals, Lindsey also appreciated the opportunity to elevate her musicianship by performing with peers who were just as invested in music as she was. “I was not able to tell you at the time, but now I reflect and understand that I felt at home around the other members,” she says. “I was not the closest of friends with every single person in the ensemble, but it did not matter. Those students were just like me. It is a comfort that a highly skilled musician cannot always find during their high school years. It felt like home, reassuring me that my unusual passion was not so unusual after all. It taught me the importance of preparation and especially teamwork.”

Lindsey’s experiences in AYWS also shaped her career as a music teacher. “This organization helped me set the standard for my work ethic very high, which of course has bled over to every aspect of my life and will continue to do so,” she says. Additionally, she still takes cues from her former conductor Dr. Stewart, even though they’re not the same energetic, on-stage musical cues she was on the receiving end of in high school – they’re aspirational cues. “He is kind and inspiring,” Lindsey explains. “He is the exact role model as a musician and leader that I strive to be.”

In reflecting on the importance of the AYWS and music education, she adds, “Children are the future. Music brings joy and comfort. An organization like this gears students for greatness, and that is the type of community I want to live in.”