Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UTSA grad Azziya Richardson wants to use her talents to give a voice to others

UTSA grad Azziya Richardson wants to use her talents to give a voice to others


DECEMBER 9, 2022 — Next week, Azziya Richardson will cross the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in music education with a choral emphasis and a minor in business administration. She is finishing up her clinical teaching term at Church Hill Middle School in New Braunfels, Texas, where she serves as an instructor of two choirs for sixth-grade students: the tenor base choir for boys and the treble choir for girls.

Richardson is also a pianist and flutist for the Texas Army National Guard (TXANG) 36th Infantry Division Lonestar Concert Band and the lead vocalist for the band’s Rhythm & Boots section.

“In another life, I am a pop star. I love to sing,” Richardson said. “Performing brings such an exhilarating feeling. The adrenaline produced when you’re on a stage under the lights with a live band is unmatched.”

And to think, Richardson almost gave up her passion for music and for instilling that passion in others.

“I want to do everything I can do to show African American boys and girls that they have the same opportunities as everyone else.”

“I almost tried a different major three different times,” said Richardson, who will be among the first graduates of the UTSA School of Music, a new school with the university’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) established this semester.

It was Yoojin Muhn, director of choral activities for the music school that prompted Richardson to change her tune.

“To see a strong woman, a woman of color who could be a role model, that is what changed it for me.”

It is a good thing that Richardson stuck with music. It meant that the choir students at Church Hill have an instructor as passionate about their development as she is about music.

“Music is my specialty,” Richardson said, “but I am also teaching them to take that passion they have for choir and apply to what they will want to do later in life. I’m teaching them to be a whole person.”

Richardson’s lessons for her students have their origins in her upbringing in a military family. Her father, Leon Richardson, is a native of Jamaica who came to the U.S. by enlisting in the Army. He retired as a captain after serving 23 years.

Her mother, Ouima Richardson, was a captain in the Army for five years. It was a role that demanded she exhibit a level of leadership and strength that is often not required of males in similar positions of military authority.

“They taught me the importance of perseverance, determination and self-motivation,” Richardson said.

It was their influence that also prompted Richardson to enlist in the Texas Army National Guard 36th Infantry Division in November 2020.

But before she could take her place in the TXANG bands, Richardson would have to make it through roughly a year of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training. Finishing both trainings required that Richardson take the spring 2021 semester off.

The training was another lesson in perseverance and determination for Richardson. Had she failed any portion of the training, she was looking at having to the process all over again, setting her music plans back even further.

“There is only one option, you have to survive,” said Richardson, who has been a member of the TXANG 36th ID Lonestar Band and the concert band since August 2021.

“I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” Richardson said. “Completing undergrad took longer than I had anticipated. Because of this, however, I’ve been able build strong connections with and collaborate with seasoned music educators, while having amazing performance opportunities.”

Those opportunities include hearing UTSA’s University Chorus sing Richardson’s arrangement of “Colors of the Wind” at their final concert for the spring 2022 semester.

A minor in business could come in handy for this musician/arranger in the making. Her long-term goal is to open a performing arts high school for and run by people of color.

It’s a desire born out of her own experiences as a high school student at the Northeast School of the Arts in San Antonio where “not one person looked like me,” she recalled.

Richardson wants a different future for aspiring African American musicians.

“I want to do everything I can do to show African American boys and girls that they have the same opportunities as everyone else,” Richardson said.

Tricia Lynn Silva

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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