Baylor University

Brenna Middleton

Student Brenna Middleton trumpets her support of Baylor sports

Baylor PR major balances schoolwork, band performances and internship

Brenna Middleton

By Robyn Sanders, journalism major

As the Baylor Line fanfare begins to play at the end of Baylor basketball games, and hands forming bear claws begin to rise in the air, junior Brenna Middleton raises her trumpet and joins the chorus of "That Good Old Baylor Line" with the Baylor Courtside Players. No matter how many times she's had to play it, Middleton said she never gets tired of it.

"Playing the school song never gets old," Middleton said. "I love the words and love watching everyone, especially the athletes, sing along after games."

Middleton is in her third year as a trumpet player for the Baylor Golden Wave Marching Band, and she also performs with the Courtside Players during basketball season. But away from the basketball court and the football field, Middleton is a public relations major with a minor in corporate communication working toward a career in healthcare PR.

This semester, as part of the Advanced Public Relations class, she is an intern at Providence Hospital in Waco. Middleton says healthcare PR was put on her radar after she met with a woman in her hometown of Tyler, who is the vice president of a hospital.

"She painted a wonderful picture of what working for a hospital could be like," Middleton said. "All of the challenges that come with mixing marketing, PR, community relations, governmental affairs and all the clinical stuff on top of it all were appealing to me. Also, I really got the sense she loved her job. That was a huge factor for me. I want to eventually end up in a place where I love what I'm doing and who I'm doing it with."

Although Middleton's schedule, at times, doesn't leave her much extra time, she says she wouldn't change a thing.

"It's tough, but it's fun to be busy," Middleton said. "Band started before Baylor even started for me because they get going during the summer. So I had a family of friends before Baylor even started. It was a great way to kind of immerse myself in all things Baylor."

In the fall, she would be in class through the morning and afternoon, and then rush to band practice later in the afternoon, and weekends didn't offer much time to relax.

"Pretty much every Saturday was full from early in the morning until late at night with football," Middleton said.

And then the week would begin again.

"It is so hard to keep a positive attitude mid-Aug. when it is 110 degrees outside and we have been on Edgefield practice field for hours practicing," Middleton said. "But I know that if I go out there with spirit and ‘relentless energy' (words from the BUGWB handbook) that other people will be able to feed off that and do the same. We all help each other get through it. It's also easy to stay energized when you love Baylor and Baylor sports as much as I do."

From the football field to Florence, Italy

Middleton received the opportunity to experience the journalism department's first Baylor in Florence study abroad program during the summer of 2011. She says the cultural and educational experience was nothing like she had ever experienced before.

"I became a better writer and photographer [in Florence] than I ever could have sitting in a classroom in Waco," Middleton said. "What I didn't expect was how much I learned about life. I was able to observe Baylor students deal with challenges that come from being way outside the Baylor Bubble. I also got to observe, interact and learn from other people that are from other countries, cultures [and] backgrounds."

Professor Maxey Parrish, senior lecturer in journalism, public relations and new media, said he and Dr. Baker used an approach described as "documentary story-telling," which he says is the approach taken in the real world with magazines.

"Clark Baker and I used a holistic approach to teaching our photojournalism and writing courses in Florence," Parrish said. "Instead of teaching the courses separately, we looked at the ways our disciplines work together. A story would be supported by photos and a photo essay would be supported by written copy."

Middleton said one of the unique aspects of the program was the chance to take a little creative license with her writing assignments for Parrish's feature writing class.

"More than once, I turned in a paper that wasn't exactly what he assigned. Every time, he made sure that if I was going to let my creativity "move me", that it moved me in the right direction," Middleton said. "I am definitely a stronger writer because of him. He assured me it was ok to put my own spin on things; to let my voice be heard."

Parrish said one of the benefits of the program was being able to learn things differently abroad than they would have in Waco, Texas. Benefits, he said, that help distinguish students as job candidates someday.

"You receive a level of instruction just not available elsewhere," Parrish said. "The end result, in addition to a great experience, is a tremendously enhanced portfolio, the tangible evidence of your work."

Combining journalism and Tau Beta Sigma

As a member of the band's sorority - Tau Beta Sigma (TBS) - Middleton has been able to utilize her journalism skills by working on newsletters and blog posts for the sorority and says she hasn't hesitated, on several occasions, to pull out one of her textbooks to help her brainstorm and problem solve.

"I use my journalism skills in TBS all the time," Middleton said. "I used them the most when I was vice president. I had to figure out the best ways to communicate what TBS is all about, recruit new members, and make sure our current membership is going strong."

Middleton says in addition to her journalism skills helping her out in TBS, the sorority has helped shape her into a better student.

"I've learned so much from my sisterhood. At the end of the day, we are, in many ways, like a little business. We have to maintain a budget, define goals, train new members, deal with internal and external conflicts [and] report to a boss," Middleton said. "I honestly feel that Tau Beta has prepared me to be a better employee."

Parrish said that by being involved in the band along with her PR major, Middleton has made herself a good candidate for a future job.

"Employers today are looking for well-rounded people," Parrish said. "It's not enough to just make good grades. They want employees with life experiences, and what better way than to be involved on campus than to support our teams in bowls games and basketball tournaments."

Even with her demanding schedule from her high level of involvement, Middleton said being a member of the band has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of her Baylor career.

"At the end of the day, I love cheering on my school," she said. "It just so happens that I can contribute to Baylor Nation's success with my horn."