Dr. Tiffany Cox teaches a lot more than music at Lake Worth Community High School, a Title I school. From her doctoral studies and dissertation research on the discrepancies in music education based on gender and race, she is aware of the achievement and opportunity gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers. “I encourage my students to take a leadership role in their own educational experiences within and outside of the band room. They are encouraged to identify sources of injustice in their lives and to investigate solutions to improve life for themselves, their families and the community.”
Mental health is another area that Cox has prioritized. She implemented routine mindfulness practice and yoga for her students, and she facilitates a close relationship with the school’s mental health counselor. Most importantly, Cox has worked to tear down the stigma of seeking help and to create a safe space where students can discuss their concerns and hardships. “Students are able to seek help from peers and instructional staff before mental health concerns escalate to a dangerous place,” Cox said.
When Cox, or “Dr. Ms. C.” as her students call her, started at Lake Worth, there were only nine band members. She immediately sought out grants and DonorsChoose donations to support her program and to make music more accessible. She now has nearly 100 students from different backgrounds and playing skills.
Cox recalls how she felt after her band’s first music performance. “The feeling was an overwhelming wave of pride, happiness and, honestly, just sheer joy,” she said. “I felt the same thing after we earned our first superior medal and first place trophy. Now, in the midst of Covid-19, I feel the same feeling as I see my students persevering through incredible hardships in an effort to keep music alive in their hearts.”