#MIOSM

Music in Our Schools Month Profile: DeAndrea Norris

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. 

DeAndrea Norris

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet


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

10


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!  

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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?

10

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, "....now 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.

www.FratMuziKK.com - 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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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Michael Plachinski

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 Michael Plachinski. Michael is a First Sergeant with the 9th Army Band. 

Michael Plachinski

What instrument do you play?

Trumpet - Drum Major

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

9

Why did you start playing?

I wanted to be in band and thought the trumpet was the best. (I was right, lol)

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

Playing in the band had many positive impacts on me. I learned to be disciplined at a very early age. Practice taught me that I needed to work hard to get better. I also had an immediate group of friends from the band and it definitely helped me to fit in while in junior and senior high. 

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

Bill Pease. He allowed us to be kids but set the standard high and pushed us to be better.  

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

Probably all the friends I made while in band. The trips and football games were always a lot of fun. 

Mr. Pease also took care of me one year at the solo and ensemble competition. I was dealing with a personal situation and he stepped in and helped. I'll never forget him or be able to repay him for that. 

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

I joined the Army right out of high school. I've been a musician in the Army for almost 24 years. 

What is your current occupation?

First Sergeant
9th Army Band
Fort Wainwright, Alaska

(Still get to play a little)

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

The Army values focus on a lot of the same things that we did in band. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage are all traits of a good Soldier and musician. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

It's a universal language. While deployed to Afghanistan, I was able to work with the Afghanistan Army Band. Although neither of us spoke the others language, we were able to communicate through music. It's been one of the coolest experiences in my career. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Practice. Enjoy what you're doing. Music should be fun and entertaining. 

We (the 9th Army Band) will be participating in Music in our Schools here in Fairbanks, Alaska. We will visit approximately 27 schools in the local area and tell our Army Story about how music "inspires" us. 

 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Camille Luke

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 Camille Luke. Camille is a stay at home mother to two beautiful, young children. 

Camille Luke

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet and Piano

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

10

Why did you start playing?

I noticed in elementary school that we had a band elective and was curious. Lol! Plus I found out my father and uncle played in school so I figured, "Why Not?".

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

Music has always been a part of my life; more vocally, than instrumental. I started out in the church choir at a young age and added private lessons for my instrument, as well, throughout my elementary and middle school years. I didn't even get involved with band until my freshman year of high school, however, once I joined, I never looked back! 

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

Mr. Holley. He really challenged me to become a better musician and opened my eyes to different musical pieces from Chuck Mangione to Hans Zimmer and everything in between.

 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

Going to North Carolina for a regional band competition and sweeping each category. That's one of many favorite memories. 

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

I did! I continued with the clarinet throughout my collegiate years. I honestly didn't know anything about my college band until I became a member of it. Many local schools in my area fashioned themselves after my college. My high school, on the other hand, fashioned themselves after another college located in Northern Virginia. 

What is your current occupation?

Currently, I have the best job ever of being a stay at home mom! 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music helps me to get through my day. From singing a song with my daughter, to showing her different keys on one of her instruments, to humming a quiet tune to my infant son, it allows the day to pass by quickly! 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music helps to get through any emotional distress I may feel. When life becomes overwhelming, I can just tune everything out for a bit and my mind can go elsewhere; a place of serenity, if you will! 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Never underestimate music. Music is not just a song on the radio. The more involved you are with music, whether it's vocally or through an instrument, the more hands-on you become with music, the more music will change your life forever. Practice is key. Never give up on music! The road may be hard when learning any aspect of music, but it will allow you to become a well-rounded individual. 

 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Ellis Williams

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 Ellis Williams. Ellis is an independent recording artist and Carnival Cruise Line musician in South Carolina. 

Ellis Williams

What instrument do you play?

Trumpet, Voice

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

8

Why did you start playing?

Before I ever picked up the horn, I was always interested in hearing myself on a record.  My mother was a recording artist who let me sit in on her studio sessions when I was as young as 4 years old.  I sang in community choirs up until middle school where I picked up the trumpet and I instantly fell in love with the instrument.

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

Music was an incredible journey throughout grade school.  I learned about music history in elementary school, how to make music in middle school, and developed my musicianship during high school. I was blessed to have had great teachers who brought out my hidden potential. 

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

This is a hard one to answer, but, I would have to say my second high school director, Mr. Andres Navarro.  He was the closest thing I had to a big brother at the time and he showed up during a period where I was beginning to doubt myself musically. Navarro was only 23 years old when he took over our program and quickly saw all the good I could do. Navarro gave me countless opportunities to explore my talent and strive.  What makes him my favorite is the fact that he was never too busy to talk or give me advice.  Navarro taught me never to settle with my accomplishments and to continue to push my skills to higher levels. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

The memory that always stands out for me is the day I won my first major award in a music program.  In middle school I was awarded with the Musicianship Award for my second year.  To this day I remember the feeling of complete happiness to know that I was acknowledged for all of the hard work I put into the trumpet. I believe the only thing that will top that moment in my life will be when I win the Grammy.  

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

I stuck to trumpet as my main instrument during my time at Grambling State and Norfolk State University.  Music had a huge impact on my college choices the day I had a talk with my music teacher about my future.  As a student, I wanted a college program that challenged me both as a musician and as a person. I got that challenge while at NSU. 

What is your current occupation?

I am an independent recording artist and a musician for M-One Studios/Carnival Cruise Lines.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

My occupation has played more of a role in helping my music.  Traveling the world with Carnival has given me the opportunity to meet so different entertainers who have influenced my music. I have become a better entertainer thanks to the diverse crowds and cultures that I encountered. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music is my therapist.  Without it, I do not know where I would be today.  As adults, many of us try to find ways to escape our realities through music. Music has given me the ability to embrace my reality and the piece of mind to know that this is what I am meant to do!

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Don't be afraid to fail.  Take all risks that comes with the opportunity.  As long as you have a plan of attack you will ALWAYS achieve your goals.  I would rather live with the regret of a missed note than the regret of wondering what could have been if I would have taken the gig! 

I have recently released my second album, Call to Battle, that is available for purchase at all fine retailers.  

For more information on my current events and performances, please visit my website: EllisWilliamsMusic.com 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Rahniesha Lewis

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 Rahniesha Lewis. Rahniesha is a fundraiser for a non profit organization in Los Angeles, CA. 

Rahniesha Lewis

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet

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

13

Why did you start playing?

One day, my dad told me I was going to play an instrument and described all the benefits that come along with it. Being a trumpet and bass guitar player himself, he said he believed everyone should play an instrument at some point in their lives. He told me I had to commit to it for one full year and then if I didn't like it, I could move on to another activity. I had one week to pick an instrument of my choosing or else he would pick one out for me! LOL. So, I wound up choosing the clarinet since it didn't seem too far off from the wooden recorder I had and a couple of my friends also played the instrument. 

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

Middle school was where I began my interest in classical music. It was definitely a struggle trying to learn not to squeak and juggling between band practice, track practice, and chorus. After my 1st year of playing the clarinet in the 5th grade, I liked it so much that I decided to stick with it, I was getting the hang of it and I also liked this elite club I belonged to where we all were a part of something bigger. In high school, I had to make a tough decision to choose to stay in the band or chorus since they practiced at the same time. I chose the band so I could join the marching band since we could go to all the football games and go on trips; it also didn't hurt that our band was highly ranked in the state! I enjoyed playing movie scores, fight songs, and other musical favorites.   

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

My favorite music teacher was from elementary school, Ms. Galen. She was the first person to introduce Broadway musicals to me. She was my chorus teacher from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and we sang songs from popular musicals that were playing in the 80's like songs from Cats and Annie. I am now a lover of musicals because of her.

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

One of my favorite times in band was from my senior year in high school. I lived in Virginia at the time and we got to go to Disney World to play in the 3pm Main Street Parade. I remember how exciting it was in the practices leading up to the trip and then actually being at the parade was so energetic. We were a part of the celebration and people were cheering us on and that just made you want to do a good job in the performance.

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

I wasn't going to play my clarinet in college, but, I found out that the marching band was going to be performing the halftime show at my favorite football team's (Redskins) last game in the old stadium against our rivals, the Cowboys. There was no way I was going to pass up that opportunity and plus, James Madison University had a reputation of having a good marching band. I wound up playing for 3 years and I was able to travel to Europe with the band in a once in a lifetime experience.

What is your current occupation?

I am a fundraiser for a Los Angeles nonprofit organization that helps kids get into and through college.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music is a universal connector, I am able to identify with some of our students in our program that may be in band or chorus. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

I live music everyday. I may not play the clarinet anymore, but, I am in my church choir. I also support local music charities like the Grammy Museum and KJAZZ (a jazz radio station). I attend concerts and listen to music to get me through my day.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Stay committed to playing or singing throughout your life or else you will feel a void. Once music is in your system it doesn't leave. Make time for music no matter what and you will be able to do things you never would have imagined. Also, musicians are part of a special group and don't be afraid to share your talents with others.

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Heather Novak

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 Heather Novak. Heather is an Emergency Room Nurse who is currently finishing her Master's degree and training to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. 

Heather Novak

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet, a little piano, a little guitar

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

7

Why did you start playing?

My Mom played the organ when I was little and I always wanted to play, too. She let me start playing the electric organ when I was around 7, but, I never had lessons. Then, when I was in 5th grade, it was time for school band. I really wanted to play the saxophone, but my Dad insisted I play either the flute or the clarinet, so I choose the clarinet. 

 

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

I played the B flat Clarinet in elementary and middle school years. This included concert band and marching band. In middle school (it was actually a junior high back then), I also played the E flat clarinet in concerts. I also played the vibraphone during football half time shows one year. None of the percussionists knew how to read treble clef music and we were performing the Phantom of the Opera so a few woodwinds played for that song. Our band instructor knew how much I wanted to be in jazz band, but he did not allow clarinets in jazz band. He allowed me to play auxiliary percussion so that I could enjoy jazz as well. First chair clarinet alternated between myself and two other girls for the most part.... Who got to play first chair really depended on the week, but the competition for first was great fun! I was also in charge of the school music library one year; looking through all that sheet music and making copies was actually quite fun. I loved the music programs at my elementary and junior high school... but, made the choice to not play in the band in High School. My junior high band had beaten the high school band I was slated to be in during many competitions. I knew that as a clarinet player I was not talented enough to earn a scholarship to college so I opted to join ROTC instead... I sure did miss Band though. 

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

Mr. Bill Pease was my favorite music teacher. He was the band director at my middle school. He expected greatness from us and it showed. He never choose music based on the fact that we were a junior high band, he choose what he liked regardless of the grade and then taught us to play it. He was a perfectionist and expected us to always do our best. Tardiness was not tolerated, if you weren't ten minutes early you were late. If we were late we ran laps or did push ups, the same for disrespecting him. Even now, I still cannot stand to be late for things. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

I think my most memorable memory from grade school band was the district band concert. I was the infamous student.... The one who played twinkle twinkle little SCREECH! I was so embarrassed, I could not believe that I squeaked, and so loudly. My band mates didn't care, though... They reassured me that no one knew it was me and it didn't matter. 

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

I did not play in college. I got married and had a family instead of going straight to college. When I did choose to go, the music program wasn't really a concern for me. 

What is your current occupation?

I am an Emergency Room Nurse, currently finishing up my Master's Degree and training to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

I think that music helps you think clearly. You are used to following direction, but also letting your heart sound through your music. In the medical field, caring really is an art. You have to think critically, but you also have to use your heart and sometimes think around the corners of problems to figure out what is really going on with your patient.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

The main way that music is part of my adult life at this point is through my kids. All three of my girls play instruments. I have a high school jazz trombonist, a clarinetist, and a beginning french horn player. I play with them occasionally, but I'm rusty. When I finish school in December, I plan to link up with the local community orchestra and bring music back into my life on my own account. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

The best advice I have for young musicians is to never let go of their music. Even if you don't continue in a band program, music touches a part of you and becomes part of your life. If you stop playing for a time, you will miss it... it's an expression of your soul and it can be an emotional release when things are tough. 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Melanie Pertee

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 highlight Melanie Pertee. Melanie is Pertee is an Administrative Rep Senior for a major government contractor supporting the US Navy Submarine fleet. 

Melanie Pertee

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet, Oboe

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

10

Why did you start playing?

I started band, because it was the family thing, both my aunt and dad had played clarinet during their school days.  I had always told my parents at parades I wanted to do that when I was old enough. 

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

I loved music, it taught me self discipline and that hard work pays off.  Music played an important role throughout my school years as it made friendships that I still have today along with great memories that I carry with me.

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

My favorite band teacher was Mr. Bill Pease.  He always pushed us to be better and instilled in us that our band was our family and we would always have that friendship as we grew older.  He knew that each of us had a special gift that we could provide the Team and he worked to cultivate that in each and everyone of us.

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

I have so many but I think that my favorite memory is when we went to a competition with Plaza Junior, and we came home with every trophy that there was a category for and we won a special session with a director who worked with us.  A lot of people that year couldn't believe that we were a junior high band with the music we were playing. From that moment on we were dubbed the pride of Plaza.

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

I did not play an instrument in college as I went later in life so I didn't attend traditional college.  

What is your current occupation?

I am and Administrative Rep Senior for a major government contractor supporting the US Navy Submarine fleet.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

The organizational and self discipline that I learned in music/band has helped me become a sought after Administrative Rep within in my company because I take pride in the work I put out and always make sure I work with integrity and respect. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music has made me realize my goals, it has made me want to succeed and better myself.  It has provided me the confidence that I can lead a team at work and in my life.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

My advice for young musicians is to listen to what you are being told, practice always makes perfect.

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Benjamin Osoba

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 will highlight Benjamin Osoba, a PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Benjamin Osoba

What instrument do you play?

Percussion, Saxophone, Clarinet

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

8

Why did you start playing?

I always wanted to play the drums and we finally got a drum set at my church that year (i.e. 2000).

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

During elementary school, I took drum lessons at a local music school. When I was in 5th grade, the movie "Drumline" was released. I loved it so much that I began watching my VHS copy of it and learning the cadences.

This practice eventually paid off, as I was recruited to play in the Eastside High School drumline as a 7th grader. After school, I would travel to the high school to learn and play with the older students.

As I continued learning, my music interests expanded. In 8th grade, I played clarinet and eventually graduated to playing tenor saxophone. The experience of learning woodwind instruments helped me to understand music theory.

While in high school, I played snare drum in the marching band, drum set in gospel choir, and saxophone in concert band. Throughout these years, I attended numerous band camps, including the FAMU Marching 100 summer band camp, the BCU Marching Wildcats summer band camp, and the NSU Spartan Legion high school band camp. I also took to arranging music using Finale software. This eventually led to my participation in the NAACP ACT-SO competition for music composition, which I did on a national level my senior year.

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

My favorite music teacher was my first drum set teacher, Mr. Rick Cameron. His teaching style made it very fun to learn and play the drums. I always looked forward to attending the lessons for this reason!

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite band memory was putting on the Eastside High School band uniform in 7th grade. I still remember the feeling of pride and excitement at that very moment and I'm sure I'll never forget it!

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

Although I did not play in an organized ensemble, music did in fact impact my college choice. When I applied to my now alma mater, Norfolk State University, I did so as a music education major. I wanted to play in the NSU drumline, the "Million Dollar Funk $quad", which I still consider to be the best HBCU percussion section in the nation. As a Florida native, I auditioned for this drumline by way of a recorded DVD (which I still have to this day).

During my freshmen year, I switched my major to electrical engineering so that I could attend NSU on a full ride scholarship via the Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS). I ultimately decided not to play in the band so that I could focus on my academics and thus keep my scholarship.

What is your current occupation?

I am currently a PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. My research focuses on the design and configuration of Micro/Nano-Electro-Mechanical (M/NEM) relays for ultra low power digital logic applications. I am supported through the following academic fellowships: the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the National GEM Consortium University Fellowship, and the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music is still my passion and I use it to keep myself motivated when graduate school gets very tough. For example, after running microfabrication processes, conducting device measurements, attending research talks, and/or going to class, music is what I use to unwind and relax.

Since beginning graduate school, I have started collecting vinyl records. I have learned so much about the history of recorded music from doing so! I also meet with other graduate students during weekends to play drums for our unofficial jazz ensemble.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

In addition to my academic endeavors, I am also studying audio engineering and production. Particularly, I was inspired to start learning how to produce after being introduced to A Tribe Called Quest when I was in high school.

For these reasons, I spend the majority of my free time studying music equipment, listening to records, and practicing on my MPC5000. I hope to eventually collaborate with some of my favorite artists, including (but not limited to) Talib Kweli, Joey Bada$$, and Black Milk.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Practice, practice, practice! I didn't understand the importance of practice until I was an adult. The process of learning to play an instrument is analogous to the process of learning anything, be it mathematics, art, science, etc. You have to learn the fundamentals and then build from there. So, developing the discipline to do so at an early age will help you throughout your life!

More importantly, always remember to have fun with what you're doing. Music is a beautiful thing, so enjoy it to the fullest.

The link to my current beat tape is as follows:

https://soundcloud.com/diracproductions/sets/progressive-steps-vol-1

Additionally, if you have any interest in collaborating, I can be reached at DiracProductions@gmail.com.


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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Anthem Smith

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 will highlight Anthem Smith, a band director in Petersburg, VA. 

Anthem Smith

What instruments do you play?

Tuba, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Baritone, Trombone, Trumpet, Percussion, Piano

At what age did you begin playing your first instrument?

9

Why did you start playing?

My mom is a music instructor, so ever since I can remember I was around her bands and loved music. Playing an instrument was destiny for me. 

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

My very first experience with music was taking piano lessons as a small child at one of my mom's friends, Ms. Geraldine Boone's, home. A few years later my mom bought me a saxophone when I was 9 and I took private lessons with professor James Hester at NSU after school. I always received high marks in music class in elementary school. I played string bass in the orchestra and made all city my 5th grade year. In middle school, I played alto saxophone in the concert band until 7th grade. In 7th grade my director, Mr. Donald Spruill (RIP) needed a tuba player, and my mom recommended he train me to play it. I played tuba from 7th grade until my senior year in college. In high school I played tuba in the concert and marching band, where I was section leader. I also made all district band on tuba. I performed with the Norfolk All City Jazz Ensemble on the tenor saxophone from 9th to 12 grade. My senior year I also took AP Music Theory and began to arrange for my marching band. 

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

I don't have a single favorite so I will shout out them all. All my band directors and music teachers, Mr. Spruill, Mr. Williams, Mr. Daley, Mr. Krieselman and Mr. Featherer. They all taught me countless things about music and about being a better student and person. My most influential music teacher never officially taught me at all, and that was my mom. She was a public school band director for over 30 years and now works at NSU. Her musical lessons came more subtlety and I can always count on her for advice today, as I continue my growth as a band director. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

Most definitely Friday night with the marching band and our Jazz Band trip to Atlanta. 

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

I played tuba with the Norfolk State University Spartan "Legion" Marching Band. Music was the reason I went to NSU. I had loved the Legion all my life up until that point and always knew I would end up there. Band was the best reason about undergrad and I made friends that eventually became my family, all thanks to music. 

What is your current occupation?

I am currently a band director in Petersburg, VA. I am the head director of bands at Vernon Johns Junior High. I am also the assistant head director of bands and chief arranger at Petersburg High School under Clyde Boswell. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music is my profession. I love introducing music to my students and helping them grow into fine musicians through concert and marching band. It's very rewarding when you see a child get better and better from month to month and year to year.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music is my life. I would be lost without it. I'll love it forever. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

My advice to young musicians is to never stop exploring your instrument and other instruments. Also, always remember music is art and should always be fun. Never take it too serious, but, don't take it as a joke. 

Be on the lookout for anything related to the Petersburg High School Marching Band and the Vernon Johns Junior High School Band as well. 

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