Haley Armstrong is Director of Bands and Coordinator of Musical Activities.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
On paper I direct the University Band, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Ensemble, as well as teaching lower and upper division music theory and topics while working a lot of the administration tasks to help the entire Music Center run smoothly. However, in reality my job is helping college students stay connected with music, any music, from pep band rock tunes to high level classical music. I’ve always loved music and teaching but what drew me to teaching at SD Mines is the fact that I get to support a mission bigger than just music. I believe that fine arts and humanities are extremely important elements to a well-rounded STEM education and while I love my subject I equally love connecting to our students in the fields they are majoring in and learning about the amazing careers they are planning for their lives.
What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?
I love teaching our upper division humanities music topic courses at SD Mines. It is a chance for me to talk about advanced concepts in music with a small group of students, and it always energizes me to see the world through their ideas. For example, this semester we have been looking at music history through the lenses of sacred, secular, and sacrilegious music, ending with a class trip to see the Tony award-winning musical Book of Mormon. During this class I know I pushed and challenged them but they pushed and challenged me to bringing up relevant ideas that I never would have considered!
What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
Even though I didn’t really mean to join the U.S. Air Force (that is a story for another day) I am extremely proud of my 22 years of service so far. Specifically, the 17 years I spent working with Air Force bands using music to inspire and bridge borders. Within this time, I was lucky to have two of my proudest moments documented. First was an outreach mission we did while I was living in Japan to the small town of Wakayama where we got to thank them for honoring our U.S. service members during WWII.
The second was about our mission during my second deployment. I was lucky to be in command of this group and SSgt Perry as we travelled around southwest Asia and her story here has represented this time for me more than any of my words ever had.
Tell us about a book you’ve read recently, a movie you’ve seen recently, or another work of art or media you’ve engaged with recently that you really enjoyed and would like to recommend.
I just finished the children’s book series The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood and highly recommend it, especially when you need something both light and occasionally thought-provoking. I’ve always been a voracious reader but, in all honesty, since having my son, I don’t have any time to sit and “read” books anymore but I have found great joy in listening to audiobooks. Written at a fifth-grade level, some might disregard these books as “childish” for a grown adult, but during the past few overwhelming years, these are the perfect books to enjoy having read out loud by a talented voice actor and an author that speaks to both children and adults.
Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that your students might not already know?
I think the most surprising thing for students and colleagues to learn about me is that I am truly an introvert. I know I come off as extroverted, which is a learned trait from years of trying to fit in in stereotypically extroverted musical communities. But I recharge by myself or with very small groups of people and after big concerts or events I am EXHAUSTED and need time with earbuds in and a good audiobook! I am very glad I have the capability to exist in both worlds because professionally both are needed, but it took me a long time to accept myself when I thought the world needed me to act one way. I just encourage everyone on the path to figure out how they tick and how to adapt to situations but stay true to themselves to keep going!