Dr. T. Andre Feagin - Central Washington University -Class Visit to Edmonds-Woodway Wind Symphony 1/15/21
Dr. F: In regards to Tenacity … you may be your worst critic. Being good is boring, I really don’t have time for that in my universe. You only live once so you might as well do it awesomely. Being excellent is a challenge for anyone and it will drive you crazy if you think about it. The silver lining is that Excellence “takes as long as it takes”.
You’re gonna be developing throughout your entire life and it’s important to be mindful of where you are in your process and you move forward with that in mind. Thinking about this helps you more successful and focused. This helps you concentrate and be in the moment … be the best version of yourself in this moment. Be patient with yourself.
I know there’s a lot of stress on you at this time. Be the best version of yourself.
Mr. B - when was your flame lit for music?
Dr. F: I did musical theater, I was the vocalist in the jazz band, I played in the concert ensembles … when I think about another fire moment … When I was in High School I was enthralled with the concept of the Drum Major. I was nervous about this as I was only a freshman. As I told people about this I realized that young people can be mean. There wasn’t much support for my idea as I was “just a freshman”. I realized that people put expectations on me and that would do it all the time. They do this because your dreams may get in the way of their success. I’m here to tell you today that I was not interested in hearing about their limitations. I worked really hard, I got a tutor, I went to the rival school to get some lessons from their drum major. Long story short, I became the drum major and I stayed the drum major throughout high school. When I was a senior I became the drum major for the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corp for the next 4 years. And then I went on to lead some of the greatest Drum and Bugle Corps in the world for the last 20 years. This included the Carolina Crown, Santa Clara Vanguard, currently with the Boston Crusaders. My life was readjusted by the opportunities that everyone around me had told me were not possible.
The moral of the story is this: Other people’s limitations on your life do not matter because it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. So allow people to feel how they feel and just steadfastly work hard and stay in your lane! If I had listened to those other people I’d still be in the closet of my parents home afraid of the future. Find a way to do the things you want to do.
I’m still young but I have done a lifetime worth of work because I believed it was possible.
Mr. B: Coming into MLK Weekend is the idea of breaking down bias in ourselves and what type of biases might we have that we could break down? Especially within the music community what do you have to say about breaking down barriers between people and branches of the Music Program i.e. Strings versus Choir versus Band etc? What can we do to break down our own biases?
Dr. F: That’s a great point and that it’s twofold. There’s that bias that within us our music community and there’s that bias right outside of your window. It’s partially because we’re ignorant to understand everyone’s journey. I’ll say this as simply as I can… Music is Music is Music is Music. The end goal is all the same. As a wind band conductor the joke used to be that you can never get band and orchestra conductors together in the same room because orchestral directors were artists and band directors were not. Not only do I take offense to that but I also believe that it isn’t true. The merit to be able to think through your own bias comes back to the awareness of people. I’m always interested in how things make people feel. Whether it’s the music you’re playing or the way in which you are approaching people. I was fortunate to get to dance around a variety of ensembles and genres so that I can see that everyone’s doing the same thing. The work you’re doing in the jazz band is no different than the work you’re doing in the marching band or the concert band. But the goal at the end of the day is all about the music you make and people that you’re making it with. Seeing your fellow musicians trying to do two things: self expression and mass communication … that’s really what it’s about. So if we’re really mindful of that we should be more supportive of those in other sectors. I can’t not say this … that will bleed into what needs to happen in our real world. The things that make us different are the things that make us awesome but we ignore them and we use this as a crutch to say “I don’t like what you’re doing, I don’t like what you’re saying, I don’t like who you are”. When in fact it is only our ignorance that is separating us. So who’s job is it to make all of this crap better? It’s you. I released a video to my students after the events at the capitol last week. We don’t have to talk about those events because they are irrelevant but what was relevant for me and my students is that Music has nothing to do with concerts. It has nothing to do with practicing until you’re blue in the face. It has nothing to do with anything except for being agents of change. The whole reason why I am a musician and a conductor and a teacher and an artist is because I believe that the thing I do is the most important thing next to God on the planet. That I get to help change the hearts of men and women, that is more powerful than any other thing that I can contribute in this life. Yes I try to bring people into concert spaces and have them reflect on their own selves and how they can contribute in their own little piece of the world. So here in tiny Ellensburg, I am changing the world. I’m going to do that in my corner and I’m gonna feel good about that in hopes that the students that I encounter and that encounter me whether that’s one of them or five thousand of them that they will go out into the world and do the same thing. So remember that for you too.
Remember that the people that are coming to see you, it’s fun that it’s Grandma and that it’s your friends they may not necessarily understand what it is that you do but listen to that responsibility .. that you’re agents of change. How do you get people to love a little harder? Through music! How do you get people to understand cultural differences and break down barriers and biases? Through MUSIC. What is it that is consistent in everyone’s lives in some way shape, form or fashion? MUSIC. So let’s use that to our advantage. That is my mission, that’s my life’s work. I’m going to continue to scream from the mountain tops that the real design of how we do what we do will change not only the programs that you’re in but the long after the performance is over and the doors are closed, people are still changed. Concerts are boring. Life changing events last forever.
Questions from Students:
Lindsey: “In your experience does it make you a better musician, person and learning to try things outside of your field like singing?”
Dr. F: YES!! The elimination of comfort zones create expansion. Any time you sit in a box for too long, you become the box. So anything that you can do to expand your horizons. Lindsey let’s take it a step further. I would say something out of the field could be drawing, reading, paintings, Greek philosophy. All of those things are about art and communication. My dissertation and scholarship is on Spanish wind band music. That’s my contribution to the wind band field but its in a different way because its in collaboration with visual arts. The marriage of Spanish wind band with visual arts is what my scholarship is about but I feel that when we’re involved in that fusion you’re making yourself better because your expanding that box and if the box is bigger you can move around a little more.
Colin: What is your advice for practicing during the lockdown?
Dr. F: Consistency! This one hits home and I tell my students this one all the time. You need to create normality in your life by creating consistent rituals. For the past weeks we’ve been quarantined but we go back next week. It’s very easy to be home and do the things that are the most comfortable. I can teach from my couch. I don’t really have to prepare anything. I could phone it all in. This will end. When it does you don’t want to do is to shut your mind, body and spirit down in what will be a society that we all need to get back to. Consistency. Colin, are you practicing on a consistent basis? At the same time? Like it’s your job. Check into your practice session, check out of your practice session. Keep yourself accountable. Keep a blog.
When I was your age I used to put stuff on the wall … you can call it a chart or whatever. I just wanted to see that I was being honest to myself. I was a very good musician. It was easy for me to not practice. But it wasn’t fair for the skill set and the development that I wanted. Put it on your bathroom wall or mirror something that forces you to look at what you haven’t done and then be disciplined and get to it.
Hunter: As an incoming CWU freshmen next year what is your advice about college band or CWU specifically?
Dr. F: You’ve come to the right person. First of all, the thing that I’m excited to hear from you about willing and wanting to be part of the band experience is that wherever you guys go in terms of academic study, JOIN THE BAND, or join the choir, or join the theater but be involved in something. Hunter what’s going to happen to you is that you’re going to walk into a situation where you are a stranger and you’re going to be overwhelmed with people who want to see you succeed and who want you to be engaged and involved in what you do and that’s going to be the most awesome part. You’re going to start school that has almost 13000 people and has a support system that is already super strong. That’s the one thing that I’m most proud about. I tell everyone get involved and get involved right away. Let me be real. As a person who graduated from 3 Universities, college is scary. It’s terrifying as you’re joining new communities. Hunter I will never forget as a Doctoral student the day that I walked on campus at the University of Arizona that almost has 60K students. When the classes change on the at campus it looks like New York City. It’s that insane. But I was so comfortable because I had a community that I belonged to right away. You’re going to be able to have that. The other thing that I want you to think about on your way to college is Don’t Take the Summer Off. That’s a huge one. You’re like Oh, I’m gonna study music in school let me coast through this summer. To quote one of my favorite movies Ferris Buhler’s Day Off “Life comes at your pretty fast” and it will come at you pretty fast so have a routine to keep your chops up. You’re really thinking about the rigor that’s gonna occur. Hunter are you going to be studying music?
Hunter: Yes I’m gonna be studying music ed and possibly even trumpet performance.
Dr. F: Look all those things are dear to my soul. I’m a teacher and I love teaching teachers. That’s gonna be a new environment for you so you just want to prepare yourself for that. The most important aspect of that question is that you’re going to have a whole crew whose only goal and function is to help you achieve.
Elliot: What’s your favorite DCI show?
Dr. F: First of all, thanks for that question … where are you? I’ve been involved in a lot of shows from a design standpoint so I’ll give you my top 3 in no particular order. In 2009 I was the brass captain head for the Santa Clara Vanguard and the show was called Ballet for Martha. I think its one of the most beautiful things to ever go on a field. I would also say in terms of performance quality and energy the 2013 Carolina Crown for the sheer musical performance I think it’s pretty unmatched, unparalleled. And ...Oh I would say the 1989 Phantom Regiment Dvorak New World Symphony because it’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s old school drum corps, it’s super loud, it’s in your face, it’s pretty crazy.
Talli: Do you have advice for playing two instruments and making sure you progress on both and get opportunities for both?
Dr. F: That’s a hard one because it’s hard to find the outlets. It’s not necessarily difficult to practice two instruments, it’s hard to find practical applications on two instruments simultaneously. So sometimes if you’re playing saxophone and flute in the jazz band it’s possible because there’s a space to do that. But if you’re playing two different instruments that don’t combine in the same entity it can be difficult. For instance flute and euphonium might be hard to find a practical application. [Mr. B clarifies that Talli plays saxophone and jazz piano]. Oh see, my advice there because they intersect is to just keep practicing. Those two things are both practical and applicable. Just keep practicing and as I just pointed out to Colin, schedule time. Right schedule time that you’re keeping your chops up on both. It’s no different that practice for your biology quiz and the english test .. still studying but giving equal time for equal work.
Mr. B - Regarding the importance of staying playing; I have two sons at CWU and one is enjoying college so much more than the other because he was a music major. You don’t have to be a music major to enjoy college but everyone in this class doesn’t understand how well you play. If you just show up, you’re going to be loved and it’s great to have friends at college. If you miss the community part I’m gonna feel so bad for you.
Dr. F: To add to that, I want you there! I want you there even more if you’re not a music major. For the reason that you spent all of this time to learn this instrument and this skill only to go to college and leave it? Why would you do that? There’s opportunities for you to be engaged in the thing that you clearly love or you still wouldn’t be sticking it out. Keep doing that thing for the outlet that it becomes. One of my strategic plans is to terms of adding to the face of the band program at CWU is to continue to invade the science department and english and business and law and justice because I know that there are students there that do that. Here’s a campaign that I’m sharing with you. I know that at a school my size of over 13K students that there are at least 5K who have skills that they are no longer using. My campaign this season and into the future is I WANT YOU.
Mr. B: Maybe students are afraid that they’ll meet someone as charismatic as you and you’ll talk them out of their life as a lawyer or doctor and talk them into a life as a poor band director. The other fear is the audition. Can you talk about these?
Dr. F: I’m not gonna talk you out of your dream but I am gonna talk you into your passion.
Your passion may be something that you’re not currently looking at so I want to help to unveil that. The other thing is the audition process. For example: we have opportunities for non music majors that don’t require an audition. It literally is about show up and give the energy so that equation is gone. We’re interested in bridging gaps between your program and ours. Don’t worry about the audition unless you’re planning to study music. My colleague and I agree that we are all about picking you up from where you are. That may be one of our strong suits. Do we require some prerequisites? Of course. Do we want you to have skill on your instrument? Of course. But are we interested in meeting you where you are and taking you to where you need to be? Absolutely. So that audition is just intended to let us know where you are.
Mr. B - I think we’ve come to the end of our time together today. What an honor to get to spend some time with you. Thanks so much.