College has been a balancing act for Taylor Burch and the graduating senior at Northwestern State University from Tatum, Texas, has stayed on her feet the entire time, living through circumstances that would have knocked many down.
Burch was living what would be a typical, happy life as a teenager who was starting to dream about her future. Then at age 14, Burch lost her mother to suicide.
“She was my best friend and my greatest supporter,” said Burch. “It is because of her that I have the relationship with music that I do. She sang to me and played music around me from the moment she knew she was carrying me.”
Burch ended up at NSU through her high school band director.
“My biological father cared about my future and loved me enough to allow me to live with my band director, Allyson Machado, and finish my senior year in Tatum,” said Burch. “Allyson is an NSU music education alumna, and she knew I would be successful here. She encouraged me to pursue academic and music scholarships to make up for the new economic challenges I faced.”
Burch made a major decision after her sophomore year when she changed the focus of her education.
“Two years into my degree I decided to pursue a different dream that had been in the back of my mind since childhood,” said Burch. “I knew I wanted to become a surgeon, so I dropped education and took on all the prerequisites for medical school.”
Burch may have changed majors, but she was determined to continue being part of the Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band and the NSU Wind Symphony.
“I continued to work on my music degree because I am passionate about music and the clarinet and I wanted to learn all I could from my clarinet professor, Dr. Malena McLaren,” said Burch. “I have always loved performing with the Spirit of Northwestern and the Wind Symphony. These organizations have brought me artistic and professional development, work ethic, and relationships with people that I now consider family.”
Burch pushed herself even harder as a musician when she agreed to play mellophone in the band.
“I marched brass, which challenged me in a unique way musically and allowed me to bond with a different group than I would have otherwise,” she said.
Burch received a financial aid package that covered her costs at NSU. Paying for her education required Burch to work throughout college as a server and bartender, music librarian, a customer service representative at a pharmaceutical benefits company and as a babysitter for families she was close to. Assisting the band as librarian helped her to manage time and work with deadlines for major projects including printing music for 300 musicians year-round.
“Balancing work, practicing music, studying science and performing research took a lot of skill in time management and a lot of work through exhaustion,” said Burch. “I have often worked until one in the morning, worked on assignments and then gone to class in the morning. I have kept my goal to pursue medicine in mind and have done my best to accomplish all these things to the best of my ability. I have certainly not been perfect, but I am proud of the work I have done.”
Burch performed with the band throughout the region including in games at LSU and Texas A&M was a major highlight. She was part of the Wind Symphony when it was chosen to perform at the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles conference in Buñol, Spain last July.
“Playing my instrument for an international organization overseas, to an auditorium of people with whom I may not have been able to communicate verbally but I was able to musically, was incredible,” said Burch. “The experience of immersing oneself in another culture, especially while performing, is priceless.”
Burch will watch as her name is called at Friday’s Virtual Commencement. She is preparing for this summer’s MCAT and will take a year off to work at a less hectic pace and plans to begin medical school in the Fall of 2021.