Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Hepston Henry

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 Hepston Henry. Hepston is an arranger for the Sound Machine Marching Band at North Carolina Central University, a financial advisor, and also has a music production company, Frat MuziKK Group, LLC.

What instrument do you play?

Alto/tenor saxophone, piano and drums.

At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?


Why did you start playing?

My grandfather, Ira A. Samuel, was one of the most well-known musicians in the Virgin Islands. He played with several groups and was also in the movie Captain Ron. I wanted to be like him so I got into music. He gave me a King Super 20 for my 15th birthday and it helped shape my love for music.

What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

I spent 7 years in Germany because my dad was stationed there in the Army. In middle school I played the alto saxophone. I wanted to play drums, but my parents insisted I play something "I can take home and practice."  When we moved back to the United States (Virginia), I was in 7th grade. Our concert band won several competitions and festivals. In high school, I began marching band. I never knew how people could march and play at the same time until I did it. The very first drill I ever marched was "The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I'll never forget that because it was definitely a hard adjustment. I never knew 2 years later I would become drum major and help completely change the style of Heritage High School's marching band.

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

My favorite music teacher had to be my high school band director, Mr. Braxton. I had only had 2 Black male teachers my entire life up to that point, and he was one of them. He would stay after school with me a couple days a week for private lessons since he was also a saxophonist. He began a music technology program, which got me interested. I used to skip part of my History class and go to the band room to learn more about music production and engineering.

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite band memory is when our high school band went to Toronto on tour along with the choir. Mr. Braxton gave us a lot of freedom, as he wanted us to behave as mature adults and be cognizant of our actions that could lead us in either direction, good or bad. Before we got off the bus he said, " if you see me....don't talk to me. I will walk away like I don't know you." We thought he was joking until he actually did it. We all laughed about it when we got back on the bus.

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

I played tenor saxophone in the Spartan "Legion" Marching Band at Norfolk State University, as well as in the NSU symphonic wind ensemble. I knew NSU had one of the best music programs with a group of some of the best instructors. It was a no-brainer.

What is your current occupation?

I am currently an arranger for the Sound Machine Marching Band at North Carolina Central University, a financial advisor, and I also have a music production company, Frat MuziKK Group, LLC.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music IS my current occupation. I play music all day at my desk to get through the day. If a hear a song on the radio with a nice format (chords, melody, counter-melody, etc), I think of how I could write it for band. I get inspired by random sounds and think of how I could turn it into a song. Every day of my life, I work on music in some form or fashion.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music helps keep me focused. Playing music softly in the background while working keeps me in a more productive zone.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Young musicians must never quit. Music has been scientifically proven to mold smarter kids. It is constantly being pushed out of the education system, but it IS the education system. Every core subject can be taught through music. - currently working on "Abstract Art" album. It is a collection of all of the arts, artists, forms, eras, styles, and genres.

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