Graduate program: Music with an emphasis in theory and composition
Academic history: Associate’s degree in music, 1985, Fullerton Community College in Fullerton, Calif.; bachelor’s degree in music, 1992, California State Long Beach
Occupation: Musician and music teacher
Q: You say you have a “colorful past.” Tell us about it.
A: I play trumpet and also write and arrange music, and I have worn tights, used a whip, traveled, taught and been paid for all of it. I was a lead trumpeter for the Ringling Brothers Circus and toured Japan with them. I was an actor and trumpeter for Medieval Times restaurants, and wrote the first soundtrack used in their shows. I have also taught music in public schools and given private lessons.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
A: I am getting a little long in the tooth for my gypsy lifestyle. I want to explore teaching at a collegiate level, and in order to do that I need at least a master’s degree. I may go straight into teaching after getting my degree here, or I may really lose my mind (laughs) and pursue a doctoral degree.
Q: How did you come to Springfield? What would you tell prospective students about the area?
A: I have lived in southern California pretty much my whole life, except when I was on the road for work. My wife and I made the decision to try a new place, and we started looking at music centers like Nashville, Tenn., and Branson, Mo. We knew people who had moved to this area and loved it. We came here in 2008. I’m a big-city boy — I did a lot of work in L.A. There are some things I miss about the giant city but there’s far more here than I thought there was going to be. There’s so much going on artistically and for leisure activities. My wife and I appreciate the seasons — in the fall when I am driving on the highway to Branson it looks like God took a paintbrush and swept it across the trees. It’s gorgeous. And the people are so friendly — there’s a sense of community and neighbors look out for each other.
Q: Talk about being a graduate assistant.
A: I work with two departments: composition and theory, and jazz studies. My assistantship made it possible for me to come to school because it covers many of my expenses. I did pay for one summer class that was not covered by my assistantship, and it was infinitely cheaper than what I would have paid in California. So even that class was a bargain.
Q: How do you balance your studies, work and family?
A: I play with two bands in addition to everything else, so time is a valuable, scarce commodity. When I started school I promised Brandie (his wife) that Saturday afternoons belong to her. We don’t have to go out, we can just sit on the couch — but that’s time we put aside for each other.
Q: How do the staff and faculty at Missouri State help you succeed?
A: The Graduate College and my professors have been so helpful; if I have questions, they have time for me. That is the attitude in general — everything is fair, everything is above-board and there is a lot of respect. Even in my first semester they are teaching me skills that will directly translate to getting a job.
Q: Tell us about your nickname.
A: Everyone calls me Bear — and it’s not because I go here! I have had that nickname for a very long time. My guess is that it has something to do with being big and hairy (laughs).
Q: What is your advice to other working professionals who are considering coming back to school?
A: Don’t be afraid. I hadn’t been a student for almost 20 years. In a lot of ways, I am a better student now — my goal as an undergraduate was to get through. My goal now is to learn my craft. Anyone who is genuinely interested in learning will be successful.