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We Are Knox...

Kailee Gawlik


Manhattan, Illinois

Music and German Double Major

How did you learn about Knox?

Senior year of high school, I thought that I wanted to do creative writing. I found out about Knox through searching for schools with creative writing majors. Then, I visited the campus and instantly felt at home. I learned about all of the other academic opportunities here when I visited, especially within the music department.

How would you describe academic life at Knox?
It's fast-paced and challenging, but in a really constructive and positive way. The professors here are invested in how each student is doing in their classes individually.

What about Knox stood out during your college search?
The atmosphere and the people, by far. Everyone was incredibly friendly and willing to answer all of my questions. They were genuinely interested in learning about what I wanted out of my education and what my passions were. That meant a lot to me.

What activities do you participate in on campus and how have they influenced your experience?
I play the trumpet in the Knox Jazz Ensemble (KJE) and also in a jazz combo. KJE has had the biggest impact on me out of everything that I have done while at Knox. It is because of my experiences with KJE that I decided to become a music major. Playing with the band and working with the many talented musicians in the jazz department helped me realize that jazz is my passion. All of the friends that I have met through the jazz program at Knox are friends for life, and the members of KJE are really like family to me.

Why did you choose Knox?
It came down to how I felt while on campus and the interactions I had with the Knox community. Knox felt like home immediately when I came here as a prospective student. I remember the first time I visited, after talking with a few professors and students, I walked around campus with my parents. I just kept thinking to myself the whole time, "This is where I belong. I want more than anything to be a part of all of this."

Is there a professor that has had a significant impact on your education, research, or career plans?
There are two professors who come to mind. Professor Nikki Malley directs KJE, and I have also been in quite a few of her classes. Professor Todd Heidt has also had a big impact on my life. Both Professor Malley and Professor Heidt have been incredibly supportive and encouraging throughout my time at Knox. They always take the time to talk with me, and they have made me believe that my dreams for the future aren't just dreams and wishes, but that they are within my grasp. They are incredibly engaging and passionate about what they teach, and they are definitely my biggest inspiration for wanting to be a professor in the future.

Describe any independent study or research you have undertaken. What inspired you to pursue your independent study? What have you learned?
I have done an independent study on jazz in Germany from the Weimar Republic to right before the construction of the Berlin Wall. Before this independent study, I had been wondering how to combine jazz and German, so it was a natural progression that they would come together. My time researching and writing about jazz in Germany helped me gain an invaluable perspective into German history, German culture, and jazz music through a different lens. I have also done an independent study on Bebop in the United States. Bebop is my favorite style of jazz, and I wanted to look at it from a musicological perspective rather than performing it. I learned a lot about jazz musicology and theory.

What are your interests and hobbies?
I love jazz more than anything else. Playing the trumpet means everything to me. I also play the piano and am learning upright bass right now. Beyond music, I love to read, bake, play video games, and build model airplanes.

Have you had any internships during your time at Knox? If so, where?
Over the summer of 2012, I was in Rüsselsheim, Germany working with IKS Jazz e.v.Kailee Gawlik in Germany

How did your experiences at Knox help in your internship?
All of my German classes contributed tremendously. But, most of all, the independent study about jazz in Germany I undertook was really helpful. Knowing about the history of jazz in the country helped me gain a greater appreciation of which direction jazz has taken in Germany today and what jazz means to the artists performing it there. (Photo at right: Kailee Gawlik and her German host family outside of JazzKeller, a famous  jazz club in Frankfort, Germany.)

Were any faculty members helpful in your internship application process?
Professor Todd Heidt helped me tremendously throughout the whole thing. I found out about the opportunity from him, and he helped me navigate through the intricacies of the German applications. He also helped me put together a Lebenslauf (similar to a résumé).

What is your favorite place on campus? Off campus?
CFA (The Center for Fine Arts) is basically where I spend most of my free time, so it's essentially my second home here. It's always nice to go there after classes and just play away the day's worries. Jazz House is great, too, because you never know who will be visiting when you come back home. It's just a happy, welcoming environment. Q's Café is by far my favorite place in Galesburg. The atmosphere is so homey, the food is comforting and delicious, and the people are incredibly kind. Whenever I need some comfort food or time to de-stress, I go there for lunch.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at Knox outside of the classroom?
It never hurts to ask for or try for what you want: an independent study, an ensemble, help on homework, meeting someone new, anything! The worst thing anyone can say to you is no, and you'll feel more confidence in yourself for having plucked up the courage to just try.

What are your plans for life after Knox?
I definitely want to attend graduate school and continue my education in music. As of now, my hope is to become a music professor at a small liberal arts college and work as a college jazz band director as well. So, you can say that my time at Knox has definitely made an impact on what I want to do with my future.