When Rósborg Halldórsdóttir arrived at Sheridan College in July 2016 from Mosfellsbaer, Iceland, she didn’t intend to study music. Halldórsdóttir enjoyed playing the trumpet but considered it more of a passionate hobby than a possible career.
Halldórsdóttir planned to study chemistry and play volleyball for two years. That all changed when she attended her first band rehearsal and quickly added a music major.
A double major of chemistry and music is just one small part of what makes Halldórsdóttir stand out. She received the Northern Wyoming Community College District 2017 Student of the Year award and was also nominated to compete for the statewide Student of the Year Award, given last week by the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees.
Halldórsdóttir didn’t win the WACCT award, but that is seemingly the only thing she hasn’t accomplished during her time in Wyoming.
Halldórsdóttir’s passion for the trumpet began at an early age.
She started playing the instrument in third grade and took an immediate liking to it, playing for several hours each day. She started playing volleyball a few years later. Volleyball is a popular recreational sport in Iceland for adults but not many students play it competitively, so Halldórsdóttir played on club teams with people of all ages.
That was one of the cool parts of coming to Sheridan College, she said, as it was the first time Halldórsdóttir played with a team of her peers. The team camaraderie also helped with her adjustment to American life.
Halldórsdóttir spoke fluent English and had been to New York City, Florida and Seattle, so it wasn’t a complete culture shock, but differences definitely existed. The 90-degree heat stunned Halldórsdóttir when she first arrived in July, because it doesn’t get much hotter than 70 degrees in Iceland.
Halldórsdóttir adapted relatively quickly to the American culture, but she still stood out. Sheridan College volleyball coach Jennifer Stadler recalled early-season trips to tournaments in Las Vegas before the school year started. With no homework yet, most players spent their free time hanging out, listening to music or watching movies. Halldórsdóttir, meanwhile, practiced her trumpet daily, either in the hotel or on the bus with a silencer.
Halldórsdóttir tries to practice the trumpet for three hours on her own each day. That dedication has paid off.
Eric Richards, Sheridan College director of bands and jazz studies, teaches Halldórsdóttir private trumpet lessons and called her the best trumpet player of any student he has had in 36 years.
“She’s good at a lot of things, and yet she has fantastic people skills and she’s able to inspire people to want to do their best, and she does this without making them feel inferior,” he said.
Stadler agreed and said Halldórsdóttir was an unspoken leader on the team, always encouraging teammates. Stadler didn’t exactly know what to expect when Halldórsdóttir arrived on campus but has watched the player blossom.
“One of the cool parts of my job is that I get to see kids grow and develop over two years, and she is one of those kids that exceeded my expectations,” Stadler said. “From the first day that she came to now, she’s just such a different kid. I feel like she really found out who she is here and found what fits for her and where she can just really shine.”
Halldórsdóttir shines in the classroom as well, as she maintains a 4.0 GPA while taking an average of 22 credits per semester. Most days, Halldórsdóttir attends class from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. She has a couple 40-minute breaks throughout the day, which she mainly uses to practice her trumpet.
Halldórsdóttir usually works from about 4-6 p.m. and has ensemble practice most evenings. She works as a library aide, reshelving books and setting up displays around campus for different events going on at the library. Halldórsdóttir is also a peer tutor, mainly helping other students with musical theory classes, along with chemistry and algebra.
Halldórsdóttir also recently received the Keys to the Stone award, which is given out to one student from each of the county high schools and the college who has a good GPA and participates in the community.
Sheridan College librarian Lanelle Richards started working with Halldorsdottir last fall and said she is “like a Renaissance woman” for her wide variety of interests.
“Those are the kind of students I like to hire because they’ll be passionate about what we do here,” Lanelle Richards said.
One of Halldórsdóttir’s most memorable moments was playing the national anthem on her trumpet before her final home volleyball game, bringing two major aspects of her life together.
In the fall, Halldórsdóttir will attend the University of Wyoming and study musical composition with an emphasis in trumpet while minoring in chemistry. She intends to play trumpet professionally but also wants to teach music someday.
“That’s the dream,” Halldórsdóttir said.
If her previous experiences are any indicator, Halldórsdóttir should be well on her way to an illustrious music education career. She’s earned the right to toot her own horn.