Alumni Showcase: Jeremy ('95) and Tara Smith ('99)
Morningside couple Jeremy and Tara Smith both ended up as music educators, despite taking two different paths to get there. Tara graduated from Morningside in 1999 with a degree in Music Education, while Jeremy graduated a few years before in 1995 with a degree in Business Administration along with a music minor. Following undergrad, Tara went on to receive her master’s in Music Education from the University of Northern Iowa (‘15) .
Jeremy was brought to Morningside by a phone call from a student calling night, where he was encouraged to visit campus. After seeing all the college had to offer, Jeremy just couldn’t stay away. It was in his senior year that Tara showed up and the two were introduced. She chose Morningside for its small class sizes, as she wanted to be accounted for as a student.
They both look back fondly on their time at the 1995 Morningside College Summer Music Institute, where they first met. They were camp counselors and spent time together doing laundry, eating in the cafeteria, and going on spontaneous trips to McDonald’s.
Reflecting on her time at Morningside, Tara cites her favorite music memories as “playing at football games, participating in different groups in the Christmas at Morningside concert, and gaining experience as a music educator at the Morningside Jazz Festival.” Jeremy remembers being on campus almost every weekend and attending most campus activities. One that stands out in particular for him was winning $88 from KMSC in a contest where he was decorated like an ice cream sundae.
As advice for students at Morningside, Tara says “Look for opportunities to expand your horizons. If something sounds scary, jump at the opportunity to grow beyond your comfort zone.” This is echoed by Jeremy who says “Take advantage of the opportunities you are presented in the college experience. I hear too often, ‘I wish I would have....’ You’re in college, so be a student!” Although, he doesn’t mean for students to work themselves into the ground. “You’ll be working for a majority of your life, so don’t pass over a college movie night or chance to be in the band, just to pick up a few hours at the grocery store.”
Jeremy is now the director of Athletic Bands at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, IA. He directs the Percussion Ensemble and oversees the Triton Marching Band and the Wow Factor Pep Band, as well as others. Rehearsing and performing with his ensembles actually are the smallest time commitments he has in his position. On an average day, he can be found using aspects of what he learned at Morningside in working with budgets, buying equipment, marketing the program to potential students, and working out logistics for performances.
In his classroom, Jeremy’s philosophy is to bring the four-year experience he had as a student to his own students. Most students at Iowa Central are in and out, where their future job requires only a year or two before they can join the workforce. Jeremy aims to beef up their experience for the short time that they are there. One recurring event he particularly enjoys putting on during band camp is “Friday is Cake Day”, an homage to Morningside’s “Friday is Writing Day”.
Tara works as the Middle School Band Director at Fort Dodge Middle School. She loves teaching beginning band because of the progress students are able to make in just the first few years of playing an instrument. “I have the opportunity to help build students’ confidence in themselves at a very important age. Middle schoolers are trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how they fit into this world.”
For young music educators on their own paths, Tara says “Be willing to learn along with your students. There are many facets of music and part of your responsibilities as a music educator is to foster each students’ individuality and personal interests. Allow and encourage students to explore. You do not always have to have the answers.” Tara explored the facets of music education through playing music with a church, working as librarian for the Siouxland Youth Symphony, teaching private lessons, and working in the music department office with work study. “Learn as many facets of music education as possible -- you never know what skills will benefit you down the road.”
Tara plans on continuing to advocate for music, as she has seen firsthand the value music has in young education. As the President-Elect of her district’s Iowa Bandmasters Association, she has a platform through which she can do that. For their family, Jeremy’s goals center around continuing to see their daughters grow and take advantage of opportunities in their own lives.
To new alumni, Jeremy says not to be a stranger to Morningside. “Graduation isn’t the end of the experience, it’s one of the experiences along the lifelong journey. Come back for Homecoming and other events, share your stories with your friends and family, and keep in touch with your Morningside family.” Tara advises to slow down and smell the roses every once in a while. “All your professional goals do not need to be accomplished right away. Learn how to network and become important to your profession over time and doors of opportunity will open.”