McMillen Sandra

Sandra McMillen

Interview with Sandra McMillen

by Mary Williams

Mary:  For those who don’t know you well, tell us about your early family life and education.

Sandra:  I was born in Plainview, TX. My parents were both musical. They met when my father attended a dance at the American Legion featuring the Edwards Family Band. My mother was playing the piano. I learned to play on the violin that my Grandfather made and passed down to my mother. We shared the violin for until I went to college. My father played guitar.

I studied piano, violin, and voice from an early age. My first performance was as a solo singer for my mother’s study club at the age of 4. I added organ my Freshman year and studied with the organ professor at Wayland Baptist College.

I was active in Choir, Band, and Orchestra throughout school and always knew that music was at the center of my life. I had opportunities to study Architecture and Math but Music won out in the end.

I was also very active in my church music choirs from the age of 9. I sang in a Sextet which provided special music for our church and for area meetings, etc.

I was given the opportunity to be the assistant director for the Singing Boys Choir at church (ages 9 – 12). This was wonderful on the job training as a choir director and fueled my love for the adolescent male singing voice. I later specialized in the adolescent changing voice and studied with several experts.

Mary:  How did you decide on a career in music?

Sandra:  I was fortunate to have many fine teachers and directors that made music attractive. They opened a world of experiences which enhanced all subjects in my world. I learned early that music related to every subject I studied in school.

Mary:  Where did you go to college and what was the best part of it? Worst part of it?

Sandra:  My undergraduate work was at West Texas State University where I majored in voice. After taking string class, I asked to study viola and joined the orchestra. I was in the WT band playing Baritone Sax, Tenor Sax, or Flute. I also studied piano and was approached about majoring in piano but knew that the demands of three performance groups and Opera Workshop would not allow adequate time to major in piano.

The hardest part of college was working to pay the bills. I had a music scholarship but it did not cover my other expenses. I had a Lions Club scholarship the first year and a Tau Beta Sigma scholarship the second.
I worked in the Music Department Records and Scores Library where students came to study for Music Literature and History classes. I had loans which took seven years to pay off following graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education.

At the age of 35, I returned for post graduate studies at UTA where I received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy with a second major in Math. UTA had many music courses which were not available in my undergraduate studies. I needed to improve my skills as a private voice instructor and was able to do so at UTA. I received the first Vocal Pedagogy Degree given at UTA.

Mary:  Tell us about your collegiate experience with Mu Phi.

Sandra:  Near the end of my first semester, a senior knocked on my practice room door. She was a person I admired and respected. She wanted to talk to me about becoming a member of Mu Phi Epsilon. She knew that I would also be considering Tau Beta Sigma, the band sorority, and encouraged me to consider MPE. I did and decided to double pledge and go on Band tour!!! I was very active in the Alpha Nu chapter and served as Warden (Steward) and Corresponding Secretary. I have many fond memories of those days and keep touch with many of the Alpha Nu members.

Mary:  Tell us about your teaching career – what you learned from teaching and what you hope you gave to your students.

Sandra:  I was fortunate to do my student teaching with Bill Cormack who became Executive Secretary of Texas Music Educators. Bill gave me many positive opportunities to practice my conducting and leadership teaching skills. Bill served as a mentor over the years.

My husband was in the Military and I worked in a variety of music positions depending on what was available where he was stationed. I taught preschool and primary grade music in Alabama; High School/Junior High/Middle School/ Intermediate School Choir and General Music in Texas.

Mary:  When did you join the Dallas Alumni Chapter and what has this association been for your?

Sandra:  Following graduated from WT, I saved up and purchased a Life Subscription to ‘The Triangle’. This subscription kept me in touch with MPE until I moved to Dallas and was able to join the alumni chapter. The subscription gave me valuable information about the Fraternity and contact information so that I could visit alumni meetings if I was in town.

The alumni chapter gave me the opportunity to perform on a regular basis. This was especially useful when I returned for post graduate work at UTA and presented three recitals over four years.

Mary:  What was your experience like as a District Director and then Second Vice President – Collegiate Advisor?

Sandra:  As an undergraduate I always wished to be the chapter vice president in charge of the pledges. The opportunity to work with all of the collegiate members and District Directors was a dream position for me. I was able to convert the many boxes of paper files into digital files which made for more efficient recording keeping. I really enjoyed working with the collegiate members, helping them to learn things which are not taught in college classes: planning; How to use an Agenda; How to write a Budget; How to write Minutes; How Committees Work; etc.

Mary:  What have you gained from this experience with the national organization?

Sandra:  I understand the many aspects that must be considered to bring the Fraternity into the 21st Century. Working with the other board members opened my eyes to the specialized jobs that make the fraternity work. I had chaired conventions and worked on conventions with other organizations so working on the MPE conventions was familiar territory for me. There is nothing quite as special as the MPE convention when collegiate, alumni, guest musicians, and friends of music get together to celebrate Music!

Mary:  What other interests do you have? How do you spend your time?

Sandra:  I belong to several other organizations: Lecture Luncheon Club, Duncanville Women’s Club; Oak Cliff Women’s Club, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International for Women Educators; and Beta Sigma Phi Cultural & Social Sorority for Women. I have served as an officer in many of these organizations and continue to do so.

I work out at The Summitt Senior Citizen Center in Grand Prairie using their fabulous pool.

For the past 19+ years, I was the backup babysitter and pick up from school for my four grandchildren (20, 14, 6, & 2). As of this summer, they have moved from Duncanvillle to Rowlett so I will not have those demands on a regular basis.

I love reading, crewel embroidery, needlepoint, and sewing. We travel and especially enjoy the Fort Wolters Chapter of the Viet Nam Helicopter Pilots Association group. We attend the VHPA Reunion every summer and the Combat Helicopter Pilots Reunion every fall. I play Mah Jongg every Tuesday evening – our husbands go out to dinner while we play.

Mary:  Anything else we should know about you?

Sandra:  I have been blessed to have a wonderful husband who has always supported the music activities and many music positions I have held over the years. I would not have been able to do so much without his support. He plays guitar and has taken over my teaching studio now that I no longer have private students.

Mary:  Thanks for sharing your interesting life with us. I hope you continue to have fun.