Jake Keller ’17, a student veteran in the graduate program in music therapy at Appalachian, third from left, poses with Hayes School of Music faculty members Dr. Christine Pollard Leist, associate professor, far left; Dr. Melody Schwantes, senior lecturer, second from left; and Dr. Cathy McKinney, director of the school’s music therapy program. Each faculty member received a Department of Defense Patriot Award from Keller for supporting him leading up to his deployment to Iraq. Photo by Chase Reynolds

When Jake Keller ’17, a student in the Master of Music Therapy program at Appalachian State University, told Dr. Cathy McKinney in 2014 he was considering joining the North Carolina Army National Guard, McKinney, who is the director of the music therapy program in Appalachian’s Hayes School of Music, promised him the department’s full support.

Keller, who is from Gaffney, South Carolina, became a specialist in the 878th National Guard Engineering Company and soon found out what McKinney’s promise meant. Classmates, faculty and staff rallied around him and his wife, Hannah, especially as his March deployment to Iraq approaches.

“I’m really glad that people didn’t try to avoid the subject. They were really curious about being in the Army National Guard,” he said. “Just showing that curiosity was helpful because it showed they cared. They offered ideas of how I could use music over there.”

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Hear the interview on SoundCloud.


Originally published February 15, 2018. Written by By Mary Giunca.


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