The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.
Today, we feature DeAndrea Norris. DeeDee is an Entrepreneur and an IT Relationship Manager for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
What instrument do you play?
At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?
Why did you start playing?
In Elementary School, the music teachers were introducing kids to different instruments. I asked my parents if I could join the band and they said, "Sure!" At the recommendation of my Elementary School Band Director, I started playing the clarinet.
What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?
I had the BEST music experience during Elementary, Junior High and High School! It was work, but it was FUN! The Band Directors really took pride in not only teaching us how to play our instruments technically, but how to listen and play with our hearts as an ensemble. They taught us to be the best all the time - on stage, on the marching field, in our other classes - ALL THE TIME. They taught us to be on time - translation...5 minutes early. They encouraged friendly competition with others in band, both in our own school and in other local, regional and state schools. They taught us confidence and to have a winner's mentality.
Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?
Oh gosh - I really would rather not single anyone out, as I was so incredibly fortunate to have the best music teachers!
Mr. Pease, my Junior High Band Director, really did lay the foundation though - don't be late, be proud to be a part of the band, speak positively, have each others back no matter what, lift each other up instead of tear each other down, know your part musically and don't be the weakest link, etc.
Mr. Sharps was my High School teacher and he and Mr. Pease were good friends. Mr. Sharps would often come to my Junior High School to see what was going on with the band, so he knew what to expect when we moved up to High School. I felt like the Band Directors were always thinking about us...always a step ahead of the game to make sure we all maximized our potential.
Mr. Asercion (Rest In Peace) was my private clarinet teacher. He was a world-renowned clarinet soloist, with several music accolades. We practiced the basics at every lesson for the first 10 minutes or so and then transitioned to very challenging pieces for the last 30 minutes - he stretched me all the time to be better.
Each of the men above were such great role models for us to follow. Not only were they great leaders, but they are/were also great musicians. Instead of just telling students how something should be played, they would often demonstrate on their own instruments... leading by example!
What is your favorite band memory from grade school?
One of my (many) favorite band memories was traveling to Orlando, FL for a band competition and playing the clarinet solo in a piece called "Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna" by Alfred Reed...IN FRONT OF ALFRED REED HIMSELF. He was a judge (no pressure, right??). It was definitely a once in a lifetime type of experience and I received the Best Soloist award.
Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?
I continued playing the clarinet throughout college at James Madison University, where I got Bachelors Degrees in Music Industry and Computer Information Systems. Music definitely influenced my college choice - James Madison University has a phenomenal marching band and music program.
What is your current occupation?
I am currently an Entrepreneur and an IT Relationship Manager for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
How has music helped you in your current occupation?
I believe music has definitely helped me in my career. In addition to playing clarinet, I was a Section Leader and a Drum Major in Junior High and High School, which gave me the opportunity to step up as leader. The trust, discipline and commitment learned and needed in these roles have definitely applied throughout my business and career to date.
How has music played a part in your adult life?
Although I don't play the clarinet anymore, the knowledge and skills I learned in band will always apply to my adult life. I really hope my daughter will someday want to play an instrument, when she gets older!
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Keep playing... even when you get older, keep playing! Find a community band... play in church... form your own band... just keep playing!