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Dr. Ilka Araujo’s crescendo from music professor to TAMS president-elect

Photo courtesy of Jacob Johnson
Dr. Ilka Araujo, chair of the music department and associate professor of piano and music history, hosts an annual faculty recital to celebrate the renovation of Martin Hall on Oct. 24, 2023.

Dr. Ilka Araujo, chair of the music department and professor of piano and music history, was elected to be the president of the Texas Association of Music Schools (TAMS).  

TAMS unanimously nominated Araujo as the 2024-2026 president elect. According to the TAMS website, the association’s goal is “to advance the cause of music in higher education generally and to improve the quality and program of the music educational system in Texas through the promotion of cooperation between colleges and universities.” 

Growing up in a country as culturally rich as Brazil with a father who worked as a guitar teacher in her town’s local conservatory, a future in the world of music was always on the cards for Araujo.  

Despite her musical background and encouragement from her parents, Araujo did not plan to pursue a career in music. Initially planning to study medicine to carve out a career in the field, a formative event led her to chase her dreams.  

“In my second year of college, I went to this international music festival in Brasilia in Brazil, and I completely fell in love with music,” Araujo said. “I saw how grand the career of music was, and I was very determined.” 

From there, Araujo pursued a higher education in the field of music. Moving to the United States at the age of 24 to study at the University of Florida, Araujo completed a master’s degree in piano performance and piano pedagogy and later a doctorate in musicology.  

“I had the dream of not just performing music,” Araujo said. “I wanted people to have the opportunity to learn and to be exposed to this great art.” 

Despite these budding aspirations, Araujo never had a career in teaching in mind. However, following a move to Texas in 2007, she found herself instructing piano for students K-12. Before long, she was embarking on her first year at Texas Wesleyan as an adjunct faculty member in 2009. 

“I never even thought that I would teach,” Araujo said. “I was a very shy teenager, but I discovered a love for teaching, and I was happy to give that opportunity to the students around me.” 

Dr. Ilka Araujo, chair of the music department and associate professor of piano and music history, addresses the audience at the University of Florida school of music for her piano recital as a guest alumna on Nov. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy Dr. Evan Mitchell, assistant professor at the University of Florida School of Music)

Music students at Texas Wesleyan have been taught by Araujo for 15 years. First-year English and business major and music minor Colin Wainwright is among these students.  

“[Dr. Araujo] kind of just meets you where you are,” Wainwright said. “She sees where you’re struggling and tries to boost you from there and if she sees you’re excelling she challenges you. But it’s not so much of a challenge where it’s an impossible mountain to climb, you can see the destination and she helps you along with that journey.” 

First-year chemistry major and member of the Wesleyan chamber choir Evelyn Lund has known Araujo for several years. She attended school with Araujo’s daughter and was then inspired by Araujo to attend Texas Wesleyan.  

“She’s willing to roll up her sleeves and get into something not just stand back as the chair of the music department. She wants to be involved,” Lund said.  

Araujo’s 15-year long journey at Texas Wesleyan has seen her take on a variety of roles, teaching students of all levels of musical development and even founding the university’s piano department. Beginning as an adjunct professor in 2009, Araujo became a full-time associate professor in 2011. She was later promoted to the chair of the music department in 2021, a position which connected her with TAMS as she attended conferences representing Texas Wesleyan. After only three years as an active member of TAMS, Araujo was elected as president.  

Referencing her potential in her new role, Wainwright praised her ability to help students excel and develop their skills.  

“She cares about music and spreading the love of music to students,” Wainwright said. “I don’t think there’s anybody out there more suited for the role than her.” 

Araujo brings varied experience and expertise from across the world to her new position. Along with her time as an administrator at Texas Wesleyan, she has also traveled the world performing and teaching music to people of all backgrounds. France, Taiwan, Germany, Russia, the Czech Republic and her native Brazil among other countries have all been graced by Araujo’s talents.  

“Traveling, playing and teaching in other cultures also helped me to become a better educator,” Araujo said. “I have to communicate an idea that is abstract to a different culture, to a different language, to a different way of receiving things. It helps me to understand how people receive information that varies a lot from culture to culture, and that helps me to connect with my students.”

Dr. Ilka Araujo, chair of the music department and associate professor of piano and music history, performs “No. 8 from Carnaval Das Criancas” on piano at the University of Florida on Nov. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy Dr. Evan Mitchell, assistant professor at the University of Florida School of Music)

Araujo plans to tackle a multitude of challenges as the president of TAMS. Above all, she hopes to provide the necessary support for music programs throughout Texas.  

“One of the main objectives of the organization is to give support for all of the schools of music, colleges and universities in Texas,” Araujo said. “At the same time, we want to try to break some of the barriers that start from the K through 12 public schools. In a way that will promote more and more the understanding and recognition of the value of music in the curriculum in general. 

Araujo’s focus is to use her experience at Wesleyan to inform her policies and objectives as the president of TAMS. As president, she hopes to act as a liaison between music professors and music administrators. Two roles she fulfills in the school’s music department.  

“It is my objective to kind of bring these conversations back and forth. To take my experience from [Texas Wesleyan] to TAMS,” Araujo said. “[We have to] remember why we are here, which is to provide education and opportunities to students and give them a chance to be successful in their careers, in whatever career path they choose to follow.” 

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About the Contributor
Kehinde Hopkins, Content Producer
Kehinde Hopkins is a freshman English and Mass Communication major at Texas Wesleyan University. Born and raised in Dallas, Kehinde is also a player on the Texas Wesleyan Men's Soccer Team. Deeply fascinated by the boundless gift that is writing, working for the Rambler has afforded him a platform to exercise such. After graduating, he hopes to become a music journalist to further explore his relationship with writing.

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