Published: July 19, 2022 By

Olivia Huizar Conner As part of the campus-wide Inclusive Excellence initiative, the University of Colorado Boulder Graduate School provides scholarships to traditionally underrepresented groups in an effort to make a CU Boulder education more affordable and accessible to all. 

“The Graduate School is continuing its investment in diversity recruitment,” says Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Margaret Berg. “The College of Music, specifically, is eligible to award a one-year, $7,500 fellowship to an incoming student, or to split the award between two students.” 

College of Music flutist Olivia Huizar Conner was a 2021-2022 recipient of the Graduate Diversity Recruitment Fellowship. Having earned a bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University (APU), Conner is currently pursuing a master’s in music education plus licensure. She recently shared with us how her background—and the fellowship—inspire her to promote diversity and inclusion in music:

Demonstrated commitment to inclusive excellence
“My background as a Hispanic student has driven me to adopt a strong work ethic,” says Conner. “Growing up, I always heard stories about my grandmother who was only able to receive a third-grade education. She was raised in Uruapan, Mexico, and she dropped out of school to help her parents provide for her and her siblings.

“I devote myself to my studies so I can have the education my grandmother was never afforded. I know the value of learning because of her hard work and sacrifice.”

Indeed, Conner’s values translated into action at APU. “I taught instrument fundamentals to beginning band students at Center Middle School, California—a school with a 96% Hispanic and 90% low-income student population—and worked with the Azusa Conservatory of Music to offer free virtual lessons to an elementary flute student.”

Conner’s music appreciation also stems from her cultural background: “When I was growing up, my dad and I spent Saturdays listening to diverse musical artists, many of whom came from Mexico and Spain, which inspired me to cherish and appreciate the music of my heritage.”

As the recipient of a Scholarly Undergraduate Research Experience grant at APU, Conner continued to engage with music of her heritage by investigating the representation of LatinX music in wind band literature. “I cataloged music with ties to LatinX culture and musical styles, and analyzed cultural authenticity through T.M. Volk’s rating system,” she explains. “By analyzing authenticity, I learned the importance of programming literature that accurately depicts culture.

“If educators don’t research the heritage of music they program, they can’t know if they are doing its culture justice.” 

Conner presented her research—“Concert Band Music of Hispanic and LatinX Influence: A Catalog of Repertoire and Suggestions for Curricular/Performance Incorporation”—at the California Music Educators Association Southwestern Section conference in 2019. 

“These experiences have informed my scholarship and creativity by showing me the importance of fostering music in young students, no matter their backgrounds, as well as the importance of honoring musical culture by giving it due research and study.”

Conner has spent the summer analyzing the perspectives of middle and high school music teachers in the Boulder Valley School District—and a few educators from the College of Music’s Summer Master of Music Education program—on the cultural authenticity of repertoire used in their classrooms through the lens of A.J. Palmer’s five factors of authenticity and T.M. Volk’s authenticity rating scale. 

She plans to continue her research in cultural authenticity and repertoire selection for her master’s thesis.

Through Conner’s various and ongoing engagements focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)—including serving as a student representative on the National Association for Music Education board (2022-2023)—it’s clear that she’s passionate about fostering a community where all students feel welcome and valued.