How about this Texas weather? Summer on Sunday and Winter on Monday. We want to send our most sincere thoughts and prayers out to those in our twirling community that have been affected by the mass amounts of rain brought in with this cold front. We hope everyone is staying as warm and dry as possible.
While it is raining like crazy in Texas, we are going a couple states over to talk to a wonderful young lady that chose to spend her college years out of state. For this week's Collegiate Twirler Spotlight we are visiting with a Texas girl twirling in Tennessee... the Vanderbilt University Feature Twirler, Haylee Castagna!
Haylee actually has a unique situation. While she is the Vanderbilt University Feature Twirler, she actually attends Belmont University. How did Haylee end up in Nashville as both a Bruin and a Commodore? "I actually never considered Vanderbilt until AYOP the summer after my junior year of high school! One of my very best friends went to visit Belmont University in Nashville. She absolutely loved it and told me I would too! I did some digging and was super interested, but the only downfall was that they didn’t have a football team. I immediately forgot about it and focused on the other schools on my list. Then, at AYOP during the collegiate finals, the Vanderbilt Feature twirler was interviewing with Todd and mentioned that she went to Belmont and twirled at Vanderbilt. I immediately knew where I wanted to go! It was then at the top of my list. I reached out to the program and asked about tryouts. When I went to audition in March, I got the gig!"
In fact, Haylee considers the moment when she "got the gig" to be one of her best moments in her twirling career! "Leaving the Vanderbilt directors office after being offered my feature position and running to tell my coach is one of my favorite memories!! It was a dream come true nnd I couldn’t wait to tell her. We promptly took a photo and raced to catch our flight. I changed out of my costume at the airport, and got several weird looks!"
Before attending Vanderbilt/Belmont, Haylee had to make the decision to go out of state for college. This can be a hard decision for any twirler, but it was an easy one for Haylee! "I always knew I wanted to go far away! I’ve always been super independent and open to a challenge! I love to travel and I was open to going anywhere. University of Hawaii was even on my list at one point! I definitely recommend going far from home. I believe it truly allows you to get the full college experience."
While she knows out of state may not be the way to go for everyone, she does recommend that those wanting to twirl in college keep their options open. In regards to going to school out of state, Haylee says, "I would 100% recommend it! It is a way to get out of your comfort zone and be super independent! I love Nashville and Tennessee so much, but moving here also gave me an even deeper understanding and appreciation for Texas! I’m so happy I get to call them both home".
Choosing to attend school out of state has been a great experience for Haylee, but it does have its drawbacks. "The most difficult part of being out of state is not being able to visit friends and family nearly as much as I’d like. On the twirling side too, it definitely makes competing very difficult! It is very hard to keep it up once you’re so far away, but I really do recommend doing your best to stay in touch with your coach and continue competing as much as possible."
As a member of both the Belmont Student Body, and the Vanderbilt spirit community, Haylee gets to enjoy the many great traditions at each University. At Belmont, she is a huge fan of the school's support of music. "At Belmont there are several showcases where student bands, artists, and singer-songwriters get to compete within their genre for chance to play at the Best of the Best showcase. Several winners have gone on to become some big name artists!" For someone who selected the school based on its ties to the music industry, this just shows she made the right choice for herself.
However, it is not all music and showcases. The Belmont students do know how to play a good prank. "At least once a year, somebody puts bubbles in the biggest fountain on campus. It’s right in front of the quad in the center of campus. It’s always a mystery who does it, but for a few days you get to pass by a bunch of bubbles on your way to class!"
While with the Vanderbilt Marching Band, Haylee enjoys being in the midst of the Game Day experience, especially during rivalry weekends. "One of my favorite band “traditions” is when we get to play The University of Tennessee.. The game always falls on the weekend after Thanksgiving so it’s fun to come together during holidays to celebrate with the whole band. Traveling years have been the most fun, but regardless UT is our biggest rival so it’s always the most exciting game of the season! Winning in Knoxville last year was AMAZING!!!! After the game the whole band was so excited that they still kept playing in our little waiting area near the buses. Everyone was dancing and celebrating, it was like a little band after party!"
Now that we have learned a little about Haylee and her choice to twirl in Tennessee, lets learn a little more about what brought her to this point...
Haylee is an Economics Major and Music Business Minor. She is originally from Lubbock, but moved to Fort Worth during her twirling years, and has been twirling now for 16 years. She has been coached by Bennie Evans and Vicki Ray. In competition, she is the most proud of winning the Senior Miss Majorette of Texas title a couple years ago. "I won it in Lubbock after I had moved to Fort Worth, and my best twirling friend from Lubbock won the Collegiate title at the same time!" Her favorite tricks are, "All things rolls & spins! My fujimi section was probably my favorite, but I always loveddddd spins!"
Favorite Color - Purple
Favorite Movie - "Almost Famous"
Favorite Music - "I love Leon Bridges, Kacey Musgraves, Bilie Eilish, Anderson Paak, and so many more!"
In baton twirling she has been most inspired by...
Former TCU Feature Twirler, Lynn Winter. "I remember going to a few of her games with my coach, and even being there for her last competition solo! One of my favorite memories was actually getting to twirl with her at her Law School talent show when I was in 5th grade."
When she is not twirling she loves to...
"Go to live shows or events throughout Nashville! There is so much live free music happening all the time. Sometimes even big name artists! Friends of mine and other Belmont students play shows a lot too so I like to go support them as well. There are also so many lakes, rivers and waterfalls, just right outside the city which make awesome hiking or canoeing spots. It feels like you’re getting out of the city but some spots are only 15 minutes away!"
Most Memorable Tip/Advice from her coach...
"Go out there and have fun! No matter how nervous I was I always did my best when I remembered why I was doing it -- it was so much fun! That one simple line always took the pressure off!"
As Haylee is coming to the end of her undergrad experience, we asked, what is next? "Once I graduate I hope to get a position in the music industry, specifically somewhere in booking or project management. I will also be taking the LSAT this next semester in case I decide to go to law school in the next few years. I would love to practice Entertainment Law and hopefully be able to stay in Nashville."
To help Haylee reach this goal, she makes sure to use the opportunities at Belmont University to get her better prepared. "I worked at a student run venue/record shop sponsored by the entrepreneurship program as an events/booking coordinator this past year! I’m also a member of the Grammy U Recording Academy which connects Music Business students to a network of industry professionals and opportunities."
The other thing that Haylee attributes to helping her get ready for her future career is the skills she learned from Baton Twirling. While she says "commitment and dedication are two of my biggest takeaways from twirling", the one she says has helped her the most is the ability to talk to anyone! "Twirling has taken me all over the country and allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people. Traveling and making friends from all over at such a young age really helped me become a well rounded person. Connecting with people is so important especially in a big city like Nashville and even more so within the Music Industry."
Finally, to wrap up our interview with Haylee we asked her to leave some advice for those preparing to apply and audition to one day be a college twirler. She told us, "Twirling at the collegiate level is such a dream! When looking at your schools, apply & tryout everywhere! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and really be open to all your options. Vanderbilt was never a school on my prospective list until a random series of events led me there just in time. And I’ve never been happier! I’m so lucky I got to go to the school I was most interested in (aside from twirling), and still got to twirl for an SEC team. Sometimes the school you have your heart set on may not be where you’re meant to be. Always be open minded, you never know what might come along!" Fantastic advice!
We want to thank Haylee so much for taking the time to answer our questions and pass along her experience to other Texas Twirlers. We wish Haylee the best of luck with the rest of the football season and we can't wait to see her back in Texas soon!
We hope you have enjoyed this blog post. We are always looking for great new stories about Texas twirlers. Do you have an idea or some information we could use to help highlight our sport? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would love to hear more about it.