Extended Interview: Miss Michigan And Her Mission To Promote The Arts, Including In Washtenaw County

Jul 4, 2017

As we informed you in a brief story late last month, Ann Arbor resident and former Miss Washtenaw County Heather Kendrick was named Miss Michigan.  In this longer version, we explore more in-depth her platform of supporting the arts, including right here in Washtenaw County, as well as how the arts changed her life forever. 


"Let me know if there are any ways throughout the year that I can help volunteer or be visible."

Miss Michigan Heather Kendrick is already making a commitment to the arts in Washtenaw County.  She tells the Director of the Ann Arbor Art Center, Marie Klopf, that her platform is keeping art in education while advocating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math programs, also known as STEAM.  

"I think it’s fantastic because we need more people pushing STEM and STEAM and Ann Arbor is a big STEAM place.  Prior to here, I was a spokesperson for STEM for middle aged school girls because they're really great technologically and then they stop by fifth grade,"

But the 23 year-old is not new to the art world.  She's the program director for the University of Michigan's M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition.  She also has a music education and organizational studies degree from U-M.  Miss Michigan wants all students in our state to have access to the arts.

"Not only giving them the piece of paper and the paint, giving them the resources which is huge because so many of our students and children don't have the resources.  So that's obviously first but secondly, how can we inspire them?  Whether that is through their peers by providing them with friends to do that sort of artwork with or by showing them that this is something that could carry them into their future."

Kendrick was five years old when she started playing the violin.  Eighteen years later, it was the violin that helped her win the Miss Michigan title when she performed Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" for her talent.  Miss Michigan reminisces about what motivated her to keep playing the violin.

"When I was eight years old, I played in church a lot, when I was younger and I played this tune called Ashokan Farewell.  That use to be the theme song for PBS' The Civil War series, and I remember looking into the audience and seeing my grandmother crying, and, obviously, it didn’t sound very good because I was eight years old.  But I realized at that moment that I could use my violin playing--something that I was creating as an eight year old to influence and affect emotions in other people which I think is so powerful."

Kendrick hopes to find a seat at the table when it comes to K-12 education reform in our state to make the arts a requirement in some capacity for all graduates in Michigan.  Meanwhile, she will continue to support groups such as the Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra by continuing to serve on its Board of Directors.  

"They provide free music education every Saturday at Ypsilanti Community School to over 250 students and adults.  And the type of music education that they're offering is wonderful.  The level of musicianship and artistry is excellent, and they don't forget that the arts can provide so much more to our youth and to all generations.  But they really foster a community that is inclusive, that is accessible, that provides social outlets and creative experiences to these students and they love it."

Miss Michigan will represent our state in the Miss America pageant in September.

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu