Former Miss America returns to teach piano at Southern

Debra Snodrass has been Miss America (1968) and travelled the world, but has returned to the four-state area to teach and enjoy her family.

Julie Lybarger

Debra Snodrass has been Miss America (1968) and travelled the world, but has returned to the four-state area to teach and enjoy her family.

Meghan Thomas

When a former Miss America winner comes to Missouri Southern to teach music classes, you know it’s going to be an experience.

Debra Snodgrass, assistant professor of music, won the Miss America crown in 1968. She teaches private piano lessons for music majors trying to pass the music proficiency test. With these lessons, Snodgrass teaches every era of music to students.

“There was never any choice for me,” Snodgrass said.

When growing up in Moran, Kan., a town of about 500 people, she was always involved in music. All through high school she played piano, trumpet and French horn. She knew what her career choice would be before she even got to college.

Snodgrass attended college at Pittsburg State University. She got her bachelor’s degree in 1970 and her master’s degree in 2006. Fifteen years ago, she got a call from the head of the music department at Southern to substitute for an instructor. She filled in for a semester when the instructor retired. She got the job and has been at Southern ever since.

During her reign as Miss America, she traveled 250,000 miles around the country for promotion. She has also traveled to Japan, Korea and Jamaica.

While in Korea, she experienced a major culture shock for the small town girl. She was in Seoul, the capital, and found it very urbanized with tall buildings and more bicycles than cars. She said the clothes and the music were a big shock. She loved the city and the culture even with the differences.

“There were kids in outlaying areas that begged for money,” Snodgrass said. “It was so hard because you couldn’t give all your money away.”

This was a problem she found as she traveled around the country.

Snodgrass now lives in Carthage and is married to Bill Snodgrass, an adjunct instructor of music at the University. She has two married daughters and five grandchildren. Her family lives in Carthage. She is very glad her family is close, especially her grandchildren.

Snodgrass has been Miss America and traveled around the world but still has a passion for music and doesn’t think it will ever die.