Alumni Spotlight: JJC Shaped Kailyn Harris into an Ambitious Leader, Musician

For the past few years, Kailyn Harris of Crest Hill has been known around Joliet Junior College as a leader. Serving as president of Student Government, she has been in charge of planning and executing many campus-wide activities for students. Also serving as president of two of the college’s foreign language honor societies, Harris has consistently made academics a priority. Despite a hectic schedule, Harris is a very friendly, approachable person who doesn’t like to say no to an opportunity to get involved with her school.

Kailyn Harris on the piano

But she also has a gift: a genuine, natural talent in music.

Harris is a self-taught musician, who knows how to play the guitar, piano, and several other percussion instruments. Her instrument of choice – the piano – she picked up by ear in high school, after the pianist at her church couldn’t make the commitment to keep playing anymore.

“I’ve only been playing the piano for five years. I started off as a mediocre player, but I was working hard toward getting better,” Harris said. “When I started at JJC, things really started to shoot off for me. I still play by ear, it’s a combination of music theory and playing by ear – but I’m very shocked at the level I can play at now. I feel like JJC prepared me extremely well.”

Harris, who was named the Student Service Recognition Award winner after graduating from JJC this past May, is on her way to making music her career. In the fall, she plans to study business and music at the University of Illinois, with ambitions of becoming a film score composer – someone who creates music for movies.

JJC was Harris’ first choice school not only because she wanted to stay close to home, but also because she’d heard so many good things about the college from her mom, brother, and two sisters who attended before her. She couldn’t be happier with the outcome of her choice.

“The people I’ve met at JJC have just been amazing. Dr. Daniela Broderick, who started off as my adviser for the music program, really helped me focus and prioritize my life,” Harris said. “But her influence has definitely pushed me to do things I wouldn’t have normally done – and to apply to schools that are tough to get into. U of I only accepts an average of five transfer students into their business program. Dr. Broderick has been in my corner from day one, encouraging me, telling me I can do it, and to always shoot for the stars.”

In addition to her accomplishments at JJC, Harris also worked on a personal goal within the past year – getting her name out there in the music industry. She recently released her first independent album, with a music video on the way. Her music, under the name, “Kailyn Rae,” can be purchased through Amazon, iTunes and streamed through Spotify. Harris produced the music on her album with the skills she learned while in JJC’s music technology program.

The album is just another way for her to get ahead in her career, but for right now, Harris is focusing on her future as a student at U of I.

“I think living on my own will be exciting. It’s a huge university, and adapting to that is going to be interesting. The business and music program there is amazing, so I’m going to have an awesome education,” she said. “But it’s also a little hard, too, because I’m the baby of the family, and my mom and I, we really get along. But it’s only two hours away. And as of right now, I really don’t know what to expect. I’m just on the outside looking in.”

Harris’ advice for new JJC students is simple: get involved – even if it seems impossible. Harris thinks her involvement in JJC’s student activities and the help she received from her student activities advisers, such as Pam Dilday, is part of the reason why she excelled so much in her short time as a JJC student.

“As much as you feel you don’t have free time, make time to do it and get involved. It’s going to help you manage your time. The resources are more available as a student who is involved because you’re constantly reminded that they are there,” Harris said. “The likelihood of getting help is highly intensified when you’re involved because you always have that adviser there pushing you to do it. The more involved I was, the more on top of my studies I was.”

In addition to her extracurricular activities and ambitions as a musician, Harris also found time to work on campus as an IT assistant in a Computer Information and Office Systems lab. Harris said she’ll miss so many things about JJC – her job, all the people she’s met, and going to a school where all the buildings are connected.

For more information about Harris and her album, visit her website at www.kailynrae.com. For more information about JJC’s Fine Arts Department, visit www.jjc.edu/fine-arts. For more information about student activities at JJC, visit www.jjc.edu/student-activities.

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