Story by Sarah Sabatke

Breanna McCaughey gestures as she speaks at the front of a West Middle School classroom.
Breanna McCaughey works with students at West Middle School. Photo by Monique Woo

Update: McCaughey’s internship with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra went so well that she was recently hired on staff as the education and community engagement associate.

“She had gone from learning to making a substantial contribution,” says Katie Lehman, executive director of the orchestra. “It was unethical to think of it as an unpaid internship anymore.”

Lehman was most impressed by McCaughey’s enthusiasm. “She throws herself into everything with all of her energy — her sense of discovery is amazing.”

McCaughey took every opportunity to learn how the orchestra works, getting involved in education, community concerns and even hiring. “I’ve always thought it was important to treat every job as an opportunity for something greater,” McCaughey says. “I believe in putting in the effort and time to do the best job possible.”

McCaughey is also working as an orchestral and personnel assistant with the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestras, based in Denver.

Breanna McCaughey, a native of Quincy, Illinois, came to Mizzou unsure which of her interests she wanted to pursue — music, education or health care.

“I did a lot of … community teaching back home, and I was just ultimately really into the idea of giving back to the community in some way,” she says.

She ultimately settled on music. “I liked the idea of going to a large school and having all the opportunities that Mizzou has but also being known as an individual and getting a small-school feel, which is what I got through the School of Music,” McCaughey says.

She threw herself into campus life. She participated in the MO Flute Society as its vice president, was a member of the orchestral club, worked with the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME), and served the School of Music as a student ambassador. She also created a strings clinic, a workshop for people learning string instruments, that was hosted on campus.

McCaughey holds a clarinet as she interacts with West Middle School students.
Breanna McCaughey wants to continue to merge her passion for music and community engagement. Photo by Monique Woo

To help pay for school, she worked as a desk attendant with Residential Life and as a pharmacy technician at University Hospital.

McCaughey graduated in May with a degree in music education and moved to Boulder, Colorado, where she is an intern with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra until June 2019. She has already been involved with creating a curriculum packet for area teachers relating to a concert students will attend this spring and coordinating a state-wide residency program. She hopes to act on her passion for community engagement and strengthen the connection between the orchestra and other organizations within the community, including area schools.

“So far, I’ve loved what I’ve been doing which has been a mix of education and outreach as well as development,” said McCaughey. 

For incoming MU students, McCaughey encourages them to “dip your hand in everything and see what sticks.”

In other words, don’t pass up a class or a club because it doesn’t seem like a perfect fit. Explore a little. “You just have to figure out what works for you.”

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