Music in Our Schools Profile: Stephanie K. Sanders

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 sharing the stories of people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.

Today, we feature Stephanie K. Sanders. Stephanie is an Assistant Professor of Music, Associate Director of Bands, and Jazz Ensembles Director at Norfolk State University (VA).

Stephanie K. Sanders

What instrument do you play?

Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Saxophone, Bassoon and Piano

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

12

Why did you start playing?

I had a great band teacher that pushed me to take a music entrance test and made sure I wanted to play whatever my heart desired!

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

I participated in band in the 5th grade, played in the Symphonic band in junior high and then played in Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Orchestra and Choir in high school.

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

Laura Hunter was my favorite teacher for introducing me to the world of classical saxophone and I also had never seen a woman play as great as she did. My other great mentor was Conrad Johnson who introduced me to the world of jazz in all its forms!

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite memory in band during junior high school was going to the state contest in the 6th grade! I made a Superior rating and I was overjoyed!

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

I played bassoon in wind ensemble, orchestra and woodwind ensemble and played saxophone in jazz ensemble while attending Jackson State University. Music and the HBCU experience were my impacts for my college choice... And a full scholarship too!

What is your current occupation?

Assistant Professor of Music/Associate Director of Bands/Jazz Ensembles Director at Norfolk State University (VA).

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

I live and breathe music everyday and I also love my profession which makes it a pleasure to come to work everyday and impact students' lives.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

I perform with the symphony as Principal Bassoonist as well as play in a Jazz/RnB Band.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Practice, have a passion to succeed and want to know as much about music as if your life depended on it. It is a struggle at times, but perseverance pays off in the end!

Facebook: Stephanie K. Sanders (The Musician)

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Karen Waddell

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 sharing the stories of people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.

Today, we feature Karen Waddell. Karen is the Director of Bands and Elementary Music Teacher at the Academy for Discovery at Lakewood in Norfolk, VA. 

Karen Waddell

What instrument do you play?

Flute, Bassoon, and Bari Sax

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

7

Why did you start playing?

My mom was a band director, and I was always begging to play some of the instruments she had around the house. An older gentleman at my church heard me asking one Sunday, and gave me a flute that his daughter played when she was little. I spent three years playing flute before switching to the bassoon. In high school, my marching band needed a baritone saxophone player, so I stepped up to fill the void. 

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

When I received my flute at 7, I began to learn to play my flute by ear. I picked up my flute and learned "Angels We Have Heard on High" within a few days. When my mom heard me play along with the recording, she started to give me my first lessons. My first band classes began in fourth grade, when I switched to bassoon. I studied bassoon all the way through middle school before switching to bari sax for marching band my freshman year in high school. I played bassoon through high school for concert season, and played bari sax for marching and eventually jazz band. Along with band, I participated in the Madrigal choir and sang in church. 

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

I loved having my mother as my music teacher, and I learned so much from her. However, we didn't always get along, and I had problems separating the teacher from my mom, so she would normally find different teachers for me. During my first three years of college, John Windings was my teacher for everything music related. As the head of the music department at Shawnee Community College, John taught all of the band, chorus, private lesson, music history, and music theory classes. As much as I learned musically from him, I also learned life skills and lessons from him. John was a notoriously tough teacher, but tough only when you needed him to be. John refused to take anything less than your best, and pushed you to find the best musician and person you could be.He always finds the humor in everything, and kept spirits high. I try to be that person for my students. A motivator, a friend, and someone's favorite teacher. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

Band not only gives a musical stress relief, but also comical relief many times as well. My teacher, Mrs. Ozier, stopped us one day in fourth grade rehearsal to correct some of our mistakes. While she was talking, she noticed a fly land on the top of her coffee cup. She told us that the best way to kill a fly was to clap above the fly, but the trick was to not knock the fly into the coffee. We literally stopped and watched her kill the fly and successfully keep it from falling into her coffee! Still to this day, I remember that every time I see a fly somewhere I don't want it to be!

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

During college, I played flute for my first two years of marching band, along with bassoon in concert band. After moving to Norfolk with my husband when he was first stationed at Naval Station Norfolk, I knew I had to find a school with a quality music program that would take me to my end goal of my music education degree. I auditioned at Norfolk State University with Ms. Stephanie Sanders, and I immediately felt at home. When the offer came through of a full scholarship, I knew it was meant to be! I not only earned my Bachelor's of Music Education through Norfolk State, but returned a year after graduation to begin my Master's in Music Education as well. 

What is your current occupation?

I am the Director of Bands and Elementary Music Teacher at the Academy for Discovery at Lakewood. ADL is the new Project Based Learning 3rd through 8th grade school in Norfolk. We are a International Baccalaureate Candidate school, and look forward to seeing what the school will succeed in the future due to the large administrative support of the music program!

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music is my life! Being able to share my love of music with my students makes my job not feel like work at all! I wake up every day looking forward to seeing my students and sharing something new about music with them every day. I love the fact that I have the opportunity to teach elementary music along with middle school band. I truly get to see the cycle of musicianship continue through middle school, and I love seeing the light bulb moments with my students of all ages. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music truly is my life. Music is not only what I do, but it is what makes me happy. Through my singing and ability to play instruments, I find my sense of peace. I express my joy, sorrow, anger, and worries through my music. I also use my music to praise God for all the gifts He has given me. Music has given me my career. Music has taught me the self discipline, balance, scheduling, and professionalism that has landed me jobs and a spot in a competitive doctoral program. Finally, in the last three years, I have been able to share music with my daughter, and help her explore herself through music. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

My favorite advice to give my students is to remember that music is unlike anything you will ever do in your life. Music is something that will teach you so many lessons, build you up, tear you down, and make you work harder than you have ever imagined. You will chase perfection, and sometimes will doubt what you are doing. However, music will reward you in ways that you will never imagine if you see it through. Stick through the hard times and you will see the rewards!


 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Shawn Zachery

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 sharing stories of people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it had on their lives

Today, we feature Shawn Zachery. Shawn is an IT Systems Analyst.

Shawn Zachery

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet, Dance

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

9

Why did you start playing?

My entire immediately family is musical. Everyone played instruments or was involved in music or marching bands in some way. My father was an incredible music enthusiast. My mother was a majorette at Southern University in the 50s. My sister played piano and flute. My brother played Trombone in the SU Marching Band and was recognized by being selected to the McDonald's All American Band while in High School. I grew up with the family of Dr. Isaac Greggs, legendary director of the Southern University Marching Band. So it was normal that I would want to play an instrument. It was expected that I would play an instrument. 

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

I started playing the clarinet in 4th grade because it was the only instrument that my mother could borrow for me. We couldn't afford to buy an instrument. I didn't really realize how good I could become until Middle School under the tutelage of Ms. Colette Riha. She was able to make me a really good clarinet player and cultivated my love for instrumental music. In High School, I joined the marching band and played in the Concert Band and Wind Ensemble, where I ultimately became section leader. The cool thing was that I was learning under my second female band director. Ms. Catherine Heard was like a 2nd mother to me. She taught me a lot more than music. And since my mother was busy working and couldn't always make our performances, Ms. Heard took me under her wing. She taught me how to be a leader. She identified me as someone that she could trust to do just about anything. I played in the horn line my Freshman year but she asked me to twirl flag because she felt I would be good at it. I didn't want to twirl flag because I had set my sights on being Drum Major and felt that being on the Flag Corp wouldn't allow me to do that. However, even as a Flag twirler, I received the most votes from my peers and was named Drum Major of my marching band my senior year. I was the first African American Drum Major in the history of Baker High School in Baker, LA. I also was honored to be selected for the Louisiana All-State Concert Band and the Ark-La-Tex Tri-State Honor Band my senior year at Baker High. 

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

Ms. Catherine Heard was, by far, my favorite music teacher. She didn't hold back or give me special treatment. She always pushed me and had very high expectations for me. She entrusted me to grow into a leader and was always there to correct me when I was going in the wrong direction. Her efforts to turn me into a leader were more memorable than anything she taught me musically. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite band memory from grade school was at Baker High School when I auditioned for and was selected for the Louisiana All-State Band. I was the only one from my school that was selected that year. My band friends got an idea in their heads, drove to my neighborhood (in the "Black" part of town) and tee-pee'd my house and front yard with toilet paper and a huge sign that said "Congratulations! We love you". I will NEVER forget that. My neighbors actually watched them tee-pee my house and yes, I had to clean it up all by myself the next day.  

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

Music did not impact my college choice because oddly enough, my college choice did not have women in the marching band at the time, and I chose to go there anyway, knowing that I'd only get to play in Concert Band. I did continue to play clarinet in Southern's concert band although I wanted to march so badly!! I was section leader and the guys did not like that at all. But I guess it was all for a good reason because I was introduced to HBCU Dance while at Southern. I kind of accidentally became a Dancing Doll, which was the start of me doing what I love to this day. 

What is your current occupation?

Currently I am an IT Systems Analyst. After majoring in Computer Science I started my career at IBM and I've been in the field for almost 28 years. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music has helped me to be more analytical and organized which is a must in this field. In music, you learn  how to interpret non-verbal communication which has helped me on projects where I have been a supervisor or manager. Music helps you with memorization and other cognitive skills needed for this field. Most importantly, music is my outlet from what can sometimes be a stressful field. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

I'm still involved in music today. It's the one thing that I can count on to put me at ease when I'm stressed, make me feel happy when I'm down. I'm still involved with marching bands as a dance team coach. I absolutely LOVE marching bands. It gives me something to look forward to. I also still play my clarinet in small ensembles for small performances for special occasions. I'll continue to play for as long as I can. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Stick with it. Truly learn and perfect your craft. Don't give up because the beginning of learning how to play an instrument may seem boring at first, or may move too slowly for today's millennial. It's not always instant gratification. It takes time and dedication. But it's TOTALLY worth it. Playing all those whole notes and scales may not get you the applause you're looking for, but it will make you the absolute best musician around. Find joy in getting better with each lesson. 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: DeShawn Mays

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 DeShawn Mays. DeShawn is a retail sales associate and technician for Batteries Plus Bulbs. He is also a full time musician at Second Calvary Baptist Church. 

What instrument do you play?

Trumpet and Bass Guitar

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

11

Why did you start playing?

Honestly, I joined the elementary band just to get out of class, lol! In 6th grade, I was very bored and just wanted to find an escape, so band was it. I took advantage of that moment and 13 years later, I'm still taking advantage of it.

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

Elementary school, I really didn't have much experience with music. I started in late April, so, I really did not have much time with music. It was in middle school when things really started for me. I joined the high school marching band and struggled for almost an entire year trying to keep up with the others. I was determined to do so,  though. By the time I reached high school, I was playing with no problems and even started challenging the older trumpet players just to make myself better and to show that I was serious about playing.

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

My favorite music teacher is most definitely Ms. Sanders from Norfolk State University. She doesn't know it but she encouraged me so much to be better than I was the previous day. Ms. Sanders gave me my start on bass guitar a year ago and since then I have been performing so much more. She is most definitely my favorite music teacher because she cared so much about me even when I wanted to give up on myself.

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite memory from grade school has to be the night I played my first double G. We were at a basketball game against our rival high school and both bands were going at it in the stands. We played " And Then What" and I hit this G and it was so clean and loud. It rang across the entire gym. The next day, I had a lot of my friends from the rival band texting me about it.

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

Music really did impact my choice of colleges that I wanted to attend. I am a student at Norfolk State University and it was their music department that made me want to go there. Since starting my journey at NSU, I have played trumpet in the trumpet ensemble, jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, and the gospel choir. I've played bass in the jazz ensemble and a few times for the Performance workshop class. 

What is your current occupation?

My current occupation is retail sales associate and technician for Batteries Plus Bulbs. With that position, I run sales on  the floor as well as work on all Apple product repairs. Also, I am a full time musician at Second Calvary Baptist Church. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

With working in retail, your day can be very stressful. You meet a lot of people and not all of them are nice. Music has helped me stay sane. I listen to music everyday and I make sure to listen to music when i get frustrated.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Being an adult means that I have a lot of bills to pay, lol. I work two full time jobs and still perform on a regular basis just to make sure that all of my bills are kept up. With growing in age comes responsibility and music has been a big help with teaching me responsibility.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

For every young musician reading this....NEVER give up on yourself. You never know who is looking up to you. Even when you feel alone just remember that music will always be there. Believe in yourself and stay humble. Humility will take you far in life.

Instagram: chad_buhtz831
email: dmmays831@gmail.com
Band email: JaDeRay2016@gmail.com

If you are ever looking for a band to perform at a function do not feel hesitant to contact me.
Currently working on a website. 

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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: Juan Ramos

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 Juan Ramos. Juan is currently a customer service representative for an e-commerce company and soon to be a full-time educator. 

Juan Ramos

What instrument do you play?

Bass Trombone, Tenor Trombone, and Tuba

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

12

Why did you start playing?

One of my neighbors played the trombone and I thought it was a cool instrument. 

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

Music literally saved my life. During my transition from elementary to middle school, I was caught up with a bad crowd. Had it not been for music, my life would have gone down a very bad road. Aside from saving my life, music also brought an unbelievable amount of joy and took me to destinations I never would have thought I would see.

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

My favorite music teachers were my high school band director and college trombone teacher from Norfolk State University. The reason my high school band director is one of my favorite music teachers is because he went out of his way to purchase materials that I could not afford in order to audition for county and state honor bands. Along with purchasing my audition materials Mr. Cidel mentored me and I ended up making the Florida All-State Symphonic Band 2 years in a row and several other bands and orchestras on the county and regional levels.

My college trombone teacher, Mr. Adams, is also one of my favorite music teachers because he gave me opportunities to run my own ensembles and expanded my knowledge considerably. Mr. Adams always went above and beyond with me and is like a father to me.  

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite band memory from grade school would have to be making the all-state band 2 years in a row. I was the only trombone player from Miami to Orlando (South Florida to Central Florida) to make the band. Knowing that I came from a low income background without any formal trombone lessons was definitely a huge accomplishment. 

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

Yes. I played the bass trombone, tenor trombone, tuba and a little bit of alto trombone.

Music has definitely impacted my college choices.

What is your current occupation?

I am currently a customer service rep for an e-commerce company. Soon to be full-time music educator.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music has helped with my current occupation by applying integrity, hard work, and patience which are skills needed in order to master an art.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music has helped me realize that it's best to do what you love as a career than to settle for a job because of a good paycheck. Music is a large part of the man that I am today.I have contemplated with what it is that I want to do for the rest of my life  for some time now and there is no getting away from music for me. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Always put your best foot forward when practicing your craft. Love what you do and find the benefits of the hard work that you put into your instrument and see how they relate/ connect to other areas in your life. 

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