Shilah Phillips entered her first pageant with a goal to earn enough scholarship money to attend UNT's prestigious College of Music.
She began classes Aug. 27 to earn a bachelor's degree in jazz studies. But she made a couple of detours before getting to the classroom.
Phillips was Miss Texas 2006, Miss Frisco 2006 and competed in the 2007 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas, where she was named first runner-up. Phillips earned nearly $41,000 in scholarship money from the pageants.
"Being involved in the pageant was really a blessing because now I have the money to finish my education, and I get to go to such a prestigious school with a wonderful faculty," says Phillips, who also competed during the third season of television's American Idol.
She set her sights on UNT a few years ago when she attended the North Texas Jazz Festival, a collaboration between the Jazz Studies Division and the Town of Addison, while she was a student at Collin County Community College.
She met Paris Rutherford, Regents Professor and director of the UNT Jazz Singers, and Rosana Eckert, adjunct professor of vocal jazz, at the festival. Both encouraged her to seek admission to UNT, the first university in the nation to offer a jazz studies degree.
The UNT vocal jazz program has received national accolades, with the Jazz Singers being named "Best College Jazz Choir" numerous times by DownBeat magazine.
UNT News Service Press Release
Ellen Rossetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.