Talented Faculty: Alicia Neal
Alicia Neal’s mind is a very busy place when she’s conducting.
Neal, the director of bands at Eastern, said when she’s at her podium directing a band, she has to hear sound and process it fast enough to relay it to her students through her movement. If she moves a different way, students know to create a different sound.
“It’s kind of addictive to do that,” she said.
For her, her job is not just about self-satisfaction, though; being the director of bands allows her to be part of something bigger than herself, she said.
Neal’s first band experience was at 10 years old, and she knew she wanted to do music even as far back as high school. She then went on to receive her bachelor’s in music education at University of Colorado and began teaching music at the high school level for Humble Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Before she came to Eastern, she taught at University of Minnesota and St. Xavier University. It was there she realized teaching at the collegiate level was what she was meant to do.
“It’s not necessarily teaching music at the highest professional symphony orchestra level, but that’s not my greatest passion,” she said. “My greatest passion is teaching music to college students, so I’ve kind of found my niche I suppose.”
Building Connections Through Music
Director of Bands, Dr. Alicia Neal gives some insight into her musical life and what it is like for her to teach what she loves.
Teaching college students is a rewarding experience for Neal, no matter what the size of the school.
Just because Eastern is a smaller school by no means diminishes its music program, Neal said; if anything, it strengthens it.
Within Eastern’s music department, the professors provide individual attention and a more personal connection to students. It’s that connection that helps them grow to become better musicians, she said.
“I really feel like at a school this size, I get to know each student at least a little bit,” she said. “I get to know what makes them tick.”
Neal said she believes Eastern’s band program is moving in an upward direction as they work on recruiting talented students. She even takes matters into her own hands by making phone calls, sending emails and making visits to high schools to recruit new members to the band.
“Working really hard to recruit students and working toward getting students as excited as I am about this place is something I work toward every day,” she said.
Even if these students don’t end up becoming music majors, she wants to see them continue with music in some way.
“They’ve been working at it for so hard and for so long, and it seems a shame to me for them to stop doing it just because they graduated from high school,” she said.
Music is an outlet that provides her something so special she can’t put into words, and her biggest career goal is to share that with others.
“I think that having the chance to sit with other people, breathe together and make something beautiful is an experience everyone should have,” she said. “EIU students, and everyone in the country, and in the world really should have that experience, and I do what I can to bring that to the Eastern students.”