Have drums - will travel: Miss Kansas 2021 combines passion for music and education
Music has always been a very important part of new Miss Kansas 2021 Taylor Clark's life. So has the Miss Kansas organization.
On Saturday, July 10, Clark, who is from St. John and came into the Miss Kansas competition as Miss Augusta, won the crown and melded together the two most important factors of her life.
With her platform of "Band Together: Music Education for All," Clark said she hopes to bring excitement about music education to students around the state as Miss Kansas 2021 as well as pour back positive energy into an organization that has poured so much into her own life through the years.
"I've literally grown up in the Miss Kansas organization, starting as a princess when I was just five-years-old," Clark said. "My mom and dad both worked in Pratt at that time, my dad at Pratt Community College, and they heard about the Sunflower Mentoring Program and thought I might want to get involved with that."
Clark said her early years in the Sunflower program taught her many things, including not to spin around in her princess dress, but she remembers most how inspired she was to win a talent program.
"Watching the older girls built my own confidence that I could be anything I wanted to be, and I wanted to be like them," she said.
Off and on through the next 10-or-so years of her life, Clark participated with Miss Kansas programming as a princess and then several times as a Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen contestant, winning that title in 2017.
"By that time I had really developed my passion for drumming and winning the 2017 Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen title really helped me connect and interact with so many positive people," Clark said. "I took a few years to get started in college but always knew I would come back to the Miss Kansas contest. The scholarship dollars are very attractive."
In 2021, her first year on stage as a Miss Kansas contestant, Clark not only won a preliminary talent contest award for her drumming, she was also named the Pam Matlock Rookie of the Year, and was crowned the 2021 Miss Kansas title-holder. Clark's total scholarship earnings this year were over $10,500, but she said it was other factors that would have the longer-lasting effect on her life.
Clark said that working with Miss KSOT and Miss Kansas personalities through the years has helped her see how important it is to have good connections and networks in life.
"Sometimes I feel like this group of people has raised me, along with my parents," she said. "I want to bring others those same opportunities and help them see how this organization empowers women and opens doors to education and beyond.
Clark won the 2021 Miss Kansas crown based on judges' point totals in social impact/interview answers, talent and red carpet competitions, but it was the talent portion of the contest where she played a jazzed rendition of "Don't Mean a Thing" on her drum set that was most memorable.
"I'm so passionate about my drum performances," she said. "I always want to give the audience a good show."
Clark credited her high school band directors Bill Clausing (at St. John High School) and Curtis Cook (at Great Bend High School) for getting her started in music and she hopes to follow in their paths as a music educator someday.
She also wants to follow in the footsteps of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who have all been teachers, and have shown her the importance of education for all.
"When schools include music education in their curriculum, they have a 20 percent higher graduation rate," Clark said. "Schools have faced budget cuts and music education has fallen off in some places, but the facts prove it is one of the most important things we can do for our young people today, provide opportunities for them to experience the joy of music and build the connections that will lead them to success."
Clark plans to do just that in the coming year of her reign as Miss Kansas 2021 as she visits schools, community groups and clubs around the state through bookings made with the Miss Kansas organization.
"Have drums - will travel," she said.
Clark, the daughter of Bill and Natalie Clark in St. John, will take a year off as a student at Kansas State University to serve as Miss Kansas 2021, then go back next year as a senior to finish her degree in music education.
For more information on how to book a Miss Kansas 2021 Taylor Clark visit this year, contact Stephanie Harris, Executive Director for the Miss Kansas Organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.