Alex Underwood
Candidate for President-Elect

Alex Underwood is an advocate for rural music education, devoting his work to the development of music structures in Northwest Kansas. Born and raised in Russell, Alex studied music education and vocal performance at Sterling College before returning to Russell to teach 6-12th grade vocal music from 2008- 2012. From there, he earned a master's degree in Choral Conducting from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ where he performed regularly with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Upon completion of his dissertation, Alex will receive his doctorate in Choral Conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where his research focuses on rural music education and interdisciplinary performance projects. In 2014, he founded the Ad Astra Music Festival, a series of classical concerts in Russell each July that brings world-class music to rural Kansas. It draws artists who regularly perform with some of the most well-known cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Choir at Trinity Wall Street. The festival is a space for visiting artists to collaborate with local students, amateur musicians, and professional Kansas musicians to create music together, a formula that has produced a thrilling result.

A core element of his music education philosophy is the teaching of music from students' own cultural background as well as music unfamiliar to them. Alex implements this concept in his classroom by creating diverse experiences for students. From opera to hip hop, Dolly Parton to Pentatonix, from 11th century chant to musical theatre, his students perform the full range of vocal music. By affirming students' own cultural music, it validates their heritage and strengthens their identity; by providing them authentic performance opportunities outside their cultural background, students expand their worldviews and potential selves. Being from and teaching in the rural Northwest District, he sees the beauty and dignity of our communities. In a world geared for urban and suburban living, celebrating our way of life is more necessary now than ever. Music is a perfect tool!

Alex teaches vocal music at Hays High School where he leads the choral music program, teaches AP Music Theory, a Musical Theatre Class, and directs the musical. He believes that all students deserve a robust and impactful music experience and is passionately interested in tackling the challenges facing teachers and students in rural schools. He sees KMEA as an organization existing to serve local music teachers and students. He wants it to continue fostering the betterment of music in our schools, providing support for teachers, and creating real-world solutions. KMEA can be a place where teachers learn from each other, lift one another up, and share resources to promote a powerful music education for every student.

Outside of his work, Alex enjoys travelling, spending time with his family in Russell, binging shows on Netflix, drinking a great iced coffee or a well-crafted cocktail, and reading trashy novels.