Dr. Nikole Roebuck was born and reared in Minden, Louisiana.
AMPS: What made you want start playing instruments at such a young age?
Nikole: I was always around music. The piano was my first instrument and I started taking piano lessons in the third grade. I spent my summers with my Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Joseph Miller (known as Uncle Joe) in Grambling. At that time Uncle Joe was the assistant band director at Grambling, and I was always with him and being around the band. I just fell in love with music and loved being around the band. When I was about six or seven years old I would go to high school band camp every summer.
AMPS: As a child what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
Nikole: As a child my dreams were to become a nurse. When I was a senior in high school my great-grandfather got sick and had to be admitted into the hospital. I was visiting him one day and the nurse came in as I was watching the nurse and saw everything that she had to do and I said to
myself I don’t have the patience to do this. After that I started reanalyzing what I wanted to do with my life. My mom always gave me great advice. She gave me the best advice she could, she said when you are choosing something that you can do for the rest of your life that you love and it doesn’t feel like work. So, I started thinking about things that I loved to do. I started playing the piano in the third grade, and I started playing the clarinet in the six grade. I was a drum major my eighth, eleventh, and twelfth grade year. I always loved going to anything in reference to a band or music. I just enjoyed doing it. I thought about all of my band directors who have influenced my life and I said to myself I think I want to be a band director.
AMPS: Did anyone else in your family play any instruments?
Nikole: My sister started playing the clarinet, but she quickly gave it up for basketball. She started playing basketball and running track. She still tried to play every now and then, but it just wasn’t for her.
AMPS: Can you tell us a little about your journey and how you got where you are today?
Nikole: In 1995 I decided to go to Grambling and major in music education. When classes started I noticed that I was the only female in the class, but I didn’t let that bother me because all I knew is I wanted to become a band director.
Once I graduated I went to Caddo Parish in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was a band director there for several years, and one summer I received a phone call from the principal at Arcadia and he was looking for a band director. At that time Arcadia hadn’t had a band in six years. When I went to the interview I noticed that they were using the band room as a storage room, and I went home and talked to my husband at that time and I said to him I don’t think I’m going to take the job. A few weeks went by and I still hadn’t given the principal an answer yet and he started calling me wanting to know if I had made a decision yet. I knew that was going to be a lot of work building a program and my husband said to me you’re just going to have to take a leap of faith. You say you’re a band director this is going to either make you or break you. I took the job and I was teaching 5th through 12th graders. The first year I was still asking myself is this really for me? But then the wheels started turning and everything started connecting and I knew then and I said to myself this is going to be the beginning of something great so I stayed there for several years and the program grew.
We performed in festivals in Georgia and Texas, we also placed in events in Texas. In 2007 right before I left we were planning a trip to Florida and I got a call from Grambling. Grambling informed me about a position in case I wanted to apply. I went and looked at the job description and I asked myself if I really want to leave my kids right now in Arcadia because my program was really going well at the time. I thought about it and at that time the department chair reached out to me and told me that I qualified
for the job and he told me to go and put my application in an interview for it to see where it goes. I filled out the application, but I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave my students in Arcadia. When most people get in those positions they stay about 15 years or longer. I always knew that I wanted to go back to Grambling and this was my chance even though it was in the middle of the year. So I took another leap of faith.
I went to Grambling in 2007 and I was assistant professor music education/assistant band director and I stayed in that position until 2018. I went to Memphis and got my PHD in music education. In 2018 I was
named interim department chair for the department of music and in 2019 I was appointed director of the band. To this day I still have to pinch myself and ask if this is real because as we all know this is a male dominic field and by Grambling not having a female band director it was just a high moment for 1. I’m still embracing it, still thankful for it.
AMPS: Do you think becoming a band director will make an impact on other women?
Nikole: Yes. Not just other women I do feel like and I feel so humble when I say this I am thankful for the opportunity to be a role model and pay the way for females to come. But when I look at myself in this position I really don’t look at myself as I am a female, but I’m a band director.
A leader is a leader whether you are a male or female, because at the end of the day being a band director is an influence not just for the females in the program but as well as the males. I look at what I do and it’s more than just music to me but music is a huge part of it. I look at this as a
purpose because I have to make sure that every student that steps foot in the band room I can know their story and be able to help shape and mold their lives to be a contributing member of society.
Every student that comes into the program I learn their personalities. I learn every student that comes into the program. I speak to every student by name that comes down the hall and that’s the first couple weeks of camp. Especially the freshmen. I want to know their names. I want to be able
to put a name with a face. I want to know where you’re from because that helps me make the connection. Because as a college student every day isn’t a good day and I want to be that person not just your band director.
AMPS: Do you think your position will encourage other females?
Nikole: Yes, most definitely. 2019 was an eye opening moment for me. As we played different bands, if our bus was close to their bus, females from other programs would come to our bus to speak to me, and say we just wanted to meet you. I would say to myself I’m from this little small town of Minden
Louisiana and I’m just doing what I love to do. And for them to say to me you give us hope. It’s good for the younger females to see.
AMPS: What are your thoughts with the competition in the rivalry between Grambling State University and Southern University continue to have that growing?
Nikole: People look at it as a rivalry and I don’t. I look at it as two HBCUs, one from the North part of the state and one from the South part of the state coming together to highlight what we do and celebrate who we are. I know it’s a little healthy competition between the bands and the football teams,
but I think at the end of the day it’s a family affair.
AMPS: How does it feel making history by becoming the first female band director at Grambling?
Nikole: It’s an honor and I thank God every day. I know without a doubt that God has placed me where I am for a reason.
AMPS: What would you like to say to females out there to encourage them?
Nikole: I would like to say to all females who are pursuing a goal especially if it’s a profession that happens to be a male profession. Stay focused, keep pushing and just remember to be competent and confident. The sky’s the limit and don’t ever give up on your dreams whatever it is. Keep pushing it until you achieve it.