NEWS! (of the life changing kind)

Well, I guess it is high time to let this personal news begin to scamper out into the wilderness. I have a pretty darn big announcement to make, so let me get right to it by knocking down some of the “what could it be” thoughts you may be having at this moment.

The news is NOT:

  • Another pregnancy. We are happy with our two beautiful children. Adding a third would damn near be impossible to afford (financially, emotionally, and mentally).
  • Am I quitting the trombone? No. Although I have had a 90% reduction of gigs over the past year, my playing has actually improved as I have practiced every single day since February 8th, 2020. Times have been tough not making music with friends and colleagues, but I have had plenty of motivation to keep the horn on my face through the past year.
  • Am I quitting music in general? No. I know the past year has given many people the space to decide that dealing with the ups and downs of the music industry isn’t for them and have decided to look elsewhere for a meaningful way to make a living. I commend all of those folks and am impressed that they have been able to make such a bold move during the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, this past year has given me great insight into the fact that the chosen field of music is exactly where I want to be and remain.
  • Moving to a new city? Not exactly…
  • OMG! Are you and Stacy separating…getting divorced? Hell no.
  • OK. You’re sending one of your kids to military school. No, not yet.

The news is in fact good and something I hope you will celebrate with me. So here it goes…

CHEERS!!

In August of this year (2021), I will be starting my DMA in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana! I will be working with the great jazz faculty there including the legendary trombonist Jim Pugh as his Teaching Assistant!

The wheels of this plan has been in motion for quite sometime. Back in 2019, after many discussions with my wife Stacy, it seemed as if the Fall of 2021 would be a good time for me to embark on this journey. Both the children will be in school 5 days a week, so Stacy would have a better chance of being a (mostly) full-time mom while working a full-time job. I will be living a majority of time in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in order to pursue this degree. I am very excited about this opportunity and I look forward to this final chapter to my academic pursuits. I want to thank Chip McNeil, Chip Stevens, and of course my friend Jim Pugh, for all of the support, flexibility, help and guidance that they gave me while I came to this decision. I have no doubt that I will have a world class education and experience working with them and all the faculty and students within the University of Illinois Jazz Department.

(quick shout out to my lovely wife Stacy who will be sacrificing so much being a single parent while working full-time as I go off and pursue this degree. Her love and support is what helped me make this decision and what will get me through the next couple of years. I only hope to be able to repay her in some way, sooner rather than later!)

There. That’s the life changing news. You may continue to read if you’d like to hear about the decision making process, otherwise, thank you for reading this far and for all your support!

The decision making story:
I never thought I would pursue a Doctorate in Music. I didn’t think I really needed anything beyond a Masters of Music in Jazz if I were to be a player and only a player. When I moved to Indianapolis in 2000 I had many opportunities to play and to teach. I taught at various High Schools, Middle Schools, and Universities. I really enjoyed the University work of lecturing and teaching a few jazz trombone players along the way. As the years went on, the ‘prestige’ of being an Adjunct Faculty member began to wear off. There was no opportunity for advancement and classes could be taken away with little to no notice if a full-time professor needed extra hours. As I built my career in the music industry my goals were always the same: BE PREPARED TO SAY YES! Any playing or teaching opportunity that arose I wanted to be prepared to say YES to that opportunity . Well, a few opportunities to apply for jobs did come my way, I said yes and applied, and nothing happened. (I don’t expect to get EVERYTHING for which I apply, FYI). These opportunities were University level teaching positions where I was told in one case that I wouldn’t even be considered simply because I didn’t have a Doctorate. Not even considered. And I was even an Adjunct Faculty member of the institution at the time.

Not even considered.

Our family! (l-r): Me, Ellington, Stacy, Griffin

This was not an isolated incident, but I carried on and continued to expand my playing into different genres and geographies. I focused on playing full-time which was a nice change. Because the majority of my gigs were in the evening, I could stay home during the day and take care of the new family my beautiful wife Stacy and I were putting together.

And my goodness, all of a sudden going out networking, staying out late gigging and rehearsing didn’t appeal to me as much any more as a family man. I felt compelled to have a more stable career, still within the music industry of course. I thought that maybe I could begin teaching more on the collegiate level, but I ran into the same issues as before. No Doctorate and a lack of consistent course loads and opportunities, which is what I was looking for. I expressed these thoughts to Jim Pugh one evening while on a gig and he said, “Ahhh, the Paper Chase!”, (I knew exactly what he was talking about) and he lightly suggested I consider the University of Illinois.

This was in 2017.

In 2018, Jim answered a full list of questions I had about going back to school. Stacy and I talked more through that year and into 2019 and it was decided that the Fall of 2021 would be a great time for me to begin my studies. Jim and Chip concurred that Fall 2021 was a good time to begin, so I applied, I played an audition, was accepted and was awarded a Teaching Assistantship, and the rest is history.

I start in August.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to studying music theory, and 17th/18th century music history so I can pass some entrance exams!

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