Amazing Students

Mindy Griffith

Melinda Griffith
On her future plans, Mindy Griffith says it “will happen just as it's meant to, and I'm in no rush to get there.” (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Mindy Griffith’s passion is inclusivity and she wants to show how “music brings us all together.” She’s already demonstrating that on Saturdays between the hedges as a Redcoat Marching Band drum major. Her love for UGA also shines as a Visitors Center tour guide where she gets joy in her heart showing off the campus she loves.


Grantville, Georgia

High school:

Newnan High School

Current employment:

Currently, I have the best job on campus! I’m a tour leader at the UGA Visitors Center and I get to meet the most incredible people and make a difference every single day.

Family ties to UGA:

I’m the first in my immediate family to attend UGA, but I think there will be plenty more to come after me!

Expected graduation:

Spring 2019

Degree objective:

Music Education

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

This university has given me so much. Above all else, the relationships I’ve made here and the opportunities I’ve had to connect with the wonderful people on this campus have truly made all the difference in my life. I’ll never take for granted how blessed I have been to be here and to do what I’ve done.

Since enrolling at UGA in the fall of 2014, I have found homes on campus in several different places. I was immediately accepted and loved by the Redcoat Marching Band, where I marched piccolo for three years and became a piccolo section leader my junior year. Then, this past year I was able to live my dream and become a drum major for the band, which I will be able to do again this upcoming year. This has been the most rewarding and humbling leadership experience I have ever had — leading my favorite family of 400 people has changed everything about my heart and taught me what servant leadership is. One would be hard-pressed to find another student group of this size at any university that shows so much love and support to each member as the Redcoats do.

Aside from Redcoats, I am also a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, an international women’s music fraternity. I have been able to serve on the executive board for this organization as recording secretary, fraternal education chair, and I was the president this last year. This year I was given the Sigma Alpha Iota Sword of Honor, an honor given to senior members who have demonstrated commitment and have made a lasting impact on the group.

The happiest place on campus filled with the most astonishingly kind humans offered me a home on campus last year as well. For the past year I have been giving campus tours as a tour leader for the UGA Visitors Center, and I cannot imagine any employment situation giving me more joy in my heart than this one does. I come to work excited and leave with a full heart every single time. What a cool thing to say about a job!

In 2016, was honored to be one of 12 students who were inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society. During the 2016-2017 term, I was elected president of this organization and helped recruit a new class of incredible members. This group on campus has helped me open my eyes to new perspectives and has greatly enhanced my leadership skills.

I have also been blessed to be a recipient of the Roger Dancz Alumni Scholarship through the School of Music, a Directors Excellence Award recipient, and have been a member of some incredible music ensembles at UGA such as the Wind Ensemble and Wind Symphony. This past year in 2017 I was also blessed to be named a member of the Sphinx Society.

I chose to attend UGA because …

I actually had no plans to come to UGA at the beginning of my college search. I knew I would stay in the state of Georgia because I had been able to receive the Zell Miller Scholarship, but my eyes were on Georgia Tech (oops). When I went to visit Tech, I decided that it just wasn’t “the place” and I canceled my application. I applied to UGA without ever seeing the campus and toured in November after I found out that I had been accepted in the early action process. My mom and I came for an 8:30 tour, met my tour guides, and began the day that changed my life. I remember walking around East Campus, Jittery Joe’s coffee in hand after the tour ended, and my mom looked over at me and smiled. She said, “This is the one, isn’t it?” And I just smiled back and said, “Yeah, mom. I really think it is.” So far, coming to UGA has been the best decision I’ve ever made. This place has made me the person I dreamed of becoming, and I’m forever thankful.

My favorite things to do on campus are …

… going to a football game in Sanford Stadium as a member of the Redcoat Band! Nothing beats getting out there in that stadium of 92,746 fans and conducting the pregame of halftime show, or getting to call up Krypton during fourth quarter and watching the entire stadium light up their phones. Saturdays in Athens are the best days in Athens!

When I have free time, I like …

As a music major, free time can be a bit hard to come by. However, I love spending time on North Campus on a beautiful day. Sometimes I’ll just take a walk around and try to take in the beauty and peace of this place — to smell the roses and be present in the moment. I also love walking around the ceramics building and the art museum, which are both on East Campus near the School of Music. Aside from that, you might catch me reading a book, listening to a great podcast, or going for a quick run on the trails behind the IM fields. All things considered, though, my favorite way to spend a free moment is with my mom on the phone. There’s not a bad day in this world she can’t make better!

The craziest thing I’ve done is …

… something I’m doing right now. I’m having a piece written for my senior flute recital about the opioid epidemic in America. I am collecting voice recordings from individuals who have suffered from this addiction in their lives, and I am using these recordings to create a backtrack that will play under the music that I will play on the flute. My friend, Toby Guzman, is experimenting with ways to distort and change sound via different technology, and I can already tell the end result is going to be incredibly cool. I’m hoping to use the work to make a difference and start a conversation about an important topic in our society. This is the most ambitious I have ever gotten as an artist, and I feel a little crazy trying to get it all sorted out! I can’t wait to watch the power of music take over, change lives and touch hearts.

My favorite place to study is …

I really love studying in the main library, but I also think the music library at the School of Music is the most underrated study space on campus. Check it out if you haven’t — it’s super quiet and pretty spacious.

My favorite professor is …

My professors here have changed my life. They have all cared so deeply for me and have given me support, direction and love throughout my time here. That being said, a few of them definitely deserve specific recognition.

Dr. Brett Bawcum has been my rock at UGA. I remember walking timidly into his office for my Redcoat audition as a senior in high school and knowing then that he was a kind human with a special heart. Since then, he has spent hours and hours working with me to help me become a drum major of the Redcoat Band, and then hours more helping me grow into the position. He also ends up being my personal therapist sometimes (sorry, Brett!) as I talk to him about my future and the things that are worrying me personally and professionally. He is the first one I go to at UGA whenever I need anything.

Dr. Jaclyn Hartenberger is another professor who has changed my life here. She is the director of the Wind Symphony, an ensemble I was a member of for several semesters, and my conducting professor. Last fall, I got strep throat and mono at the same time (go Dawgs), and I went up in tears to tell Dr. Hartenberger that I might not get to play in the concert that next week. She took one look at me, pulled out her phone, and called someone and said, “Amy? It’s Jackie. Pull aside *names of things I can’t remember* and put it all on my tab — I’m sending a student to come get them.” Turns out, she had ordered me an assortment of organic juices that would boost my immune system. She then sat me down and told me how important my health was to her — more important than the concert or any assignment. She sent me home to sleep and get better and wouldn’t let me pay her back for the juices. I will never forget her kindness as long as I live. She is my role model!

I also have to give credit to Cynthia Johnston Turner, director of bands at UGA who has inspired me to use music to start change and make a difference, as well as Dr. Bill, the dean of students. Dr. Bill is always down for a Chick-fil-A breakfast and one-on-one talks about life, faith and growth. He truly cares so much for all of his students at UGA.

Finally, my bosses at the Visitors Center have made a remarkable impact on me. Natalie Mann, Terri Franks and especially Eric Johnson have been such a supportive and loving group of people to work for. I’m lucky to have them!

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I’d love to share it with …

… Celeste Headlee from “On Second Thought” on NPR. She just gave our commencement address at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music back in May and her speech brought me to tears. She spoke of her grandfather, who had tried to fight racial inequality with music, and she described how highly she regarded him and his efforts. I’d love to sit down with her for an afternoon and discuss music and its power to enhance humanity and spark social change. I’m also just a total dork for NPR, so I would be happy to chat with her about how awesome it is to do what she does every day.

If I knew I could not fail, I would …

… start an initiative to move away from criminalization and toward rehabilitation in our prisons and jails. I would specifically like to see music therapy programs offered to any inmate with potential for recovery and reintegration into society. I’ve seen music therapy do incredible things, and I truly believe we could see great improvement and save funding in our criminal justice system if we utilized more resources such as music therapy. These are human beings in these systems —some of whom could be fully rehabilitated and could make a huge difference in our communities once rehabilitated. If I couldn’t fail, I’d see to it that those individuals could receive help and benefits during their time in incarceration in order to have a second chance once released.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to …

I want to travel!! I’ve not been able to leave the continental United States yet, and I am hoping to have opportunities to do that soon. I’d love to see Europe and spend some time in Central or South America, but I’d take an opportunity to go anywhere! If money were no object, you’d find me exploring every single continent!

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

Overall, my greatest passion is inclusivity. My faith defines so much of who I am and what I believe in, and through my faith in a loving and encouraging God, I have made it my goal in life to show authentic kindness to as many people as I possibly can. Music has always appealed to me because of how naturally and organically inclusive it is. It doesn’t matter what language a person speaks, what political party they affiliate with, what socioeconomic status defines them — music appeals to every human heart. This is a large part of why I chose to study music in the first place. Each day as a student here, I witness how music brings us all together. One day as a teacher, I hope to show students that music opens doors to things like college and passionate leadership, regardless of where one starts out in life. I strive to live as kindly and welcomingly as music does. At the end of the day, if I have made one person feel more loved and more comfortable at this university, I feel as if I have succeeded.

After graduation, I plan to …

This is a scary question! I am honestly not sure where I will be when I graduate. I’d love to pursue a long-term volunteer opportunity through a program like the Peace Corps where I can live abroad and serve a community in need. However, maybe I will go straight into teaching music at a small middle school in Georgia. Who knows! Long term, I have some interest in going back to law school and eventually working on criminal justice reform. For now, I’m going to enjoy my time at UGA. The future will happen just as it’s meant to, and I’m in no rush to get there.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …

Most of my core memories in college stem from my involvement in Redcoats, but there’s one that will always stand out to me.

This past year I was nominated to represent the Redcoat Marching Band on Homecoming Court. As I watched the band rally and work to support me, I remember thinking how blessed and lucky I was to have such a loving group of friends. The night of the game, I went down on the field and waved when my name was called. As we all waited to hear who our king and queen were, I turned behind me and smiled at my band as they played “Georgia on My Mind.” My name was not announced over the speaker that night, but as I went back up to the band to conduct fourth quarter in a dress and converse shoes, I didn’t mind at all.

At the end of that quarter, I felt something touch my hair. I turned around and my roommate, a piccolo player, was placing a $3 crown from Kroger on my head. I burst into tears as she told me that the band had reached out and asked her and our social chair to get me a crown in the event that I was not able to get one down on the field. That was the moment for me when I felt so much love that my heart almost exploded. I prayed the most genuine prayer of thanks, and felt tears wash all the carefully-done makeup off my cheeks. When I leave UGA, I know I’ll always remember that night — being 22 years old, standing on a ladder with a pink plastic crown on my head and hoping that “losing” would always feel that incredible.