Even before meeting Will, I could sense that he is a high achiever and talented beyond my imagination. He has managed to double major in Music Education and Oboe Performance and participate in a slew of music ensembles and orchestras without losing his cool. However, this future oboe professor isn’t just defined by his accomplishments. He is invested in doing what he calls “passing on the passion” to the students he will soon teach and learn from.
Will comes from a family of talented athletes. He thought he’d also be an athlete for the long haul until he joined his middle school’s band. He shared, “That was the life I thought I was going to continue with... my grandfather played in the minors for baseball and brother plays baseball in college now. That’s the life I thought I would have.” Life surprised him when he began playing the clarinet. While he kept playing basketball and other sports for a while, his interest in music grew stronger, and he collected accolades and acknowledgement. But then he found himself surprised again; he was growing bored with the clarinet.
“[The clarinet] didn’t give me the challenges I was looking for... my teacher pointed me towards the oboe.” His private oboe teacher Becky Hunget gave him free reeds, his own reed cup, an opportunity to learn from the principal oboist of the Fort Collins symphony orchestra and other resources that encouraged him. This passion his teacher imbued in Will pushed him towards his interest in the oboe. At that point, he didn’t know for certain that he’d continue as a budding musician, but he knew that his teacher and his family cared about his success.
He was also fated to meet other key educators on his journey. Will notes his two band directors at Rocky Mountain High School, Mr. Kenyon Scheurman and Mr. Scott Schlup. He met them while he was still in middle school, and they were instrumental in his decision to dedicate his time to building his musicianship. However, it wasn’t until Will stopped playing sports his sophomore year of high school that he realized that he only wanted to be a musician. He reveres these two teachers, “They welcomed me with open arms, and I credit my entire career to those guys. They transferred their passion to me … [and I realized] the best way I could give back to my community was through teaching.”
After this, Will’s choice to attend UNC’s Music Education program felt simple: “The education program here made me feel like a person. They truly saw me as a human with a pulse and not just money walking around.” And while here he has gained community and opportunities that better his understanding of music and people.
On the teaching side, Will’s instructors at UNC are a mainstay in his growth as a new educator. Dr. Wesley Broadnax and Dr. Daniel Farr, UNC’s Directors of Bands, have taught him how to “pass on his passion.” And his oboe instructor Tim Gocklin provides what he calls “priceless knowledge in oboe performing and oboe pedagogy.”
In Will’s experience, there are many teaching opportunities in and outside of the classroom. As a private piano teacher, he has learned some lessons of his own about a key tenant of teaching students a new instrument— teaching them passion.
When his private lesson students were having a hard time learning from the methods books, he had an epiphany. He said, “My job right now as a private lesson teacher is not to teach them how to play Moonlight Sonata […] my job is to teach them how to love music.” He thinks teachers can sometimes forget to teach this passion. “We need to teach them [students] how to be passionate about the subject they love […] You want good scores, of course, but you also want students who are happy in the music world.”
Now he’s giving his students time to “get the wiggles out,” play without judgement and gather for themselves what it means to be a participant in the music world. At UNC, Will has elevated his own performance skills as part of jazz faculty member Drew Zaremba’s Spectrum Studio Orchestra, which melds classical music instruments and jazz composition. Reading the music in Professor Zaremba’s group has been a learning experience for him—going from reading music note by note to having to read chord changes has been an adjustment that requires patience as well as an open mind.
But again, while performing has expanded his career, teaching grounds him. To Will, performing on its own would not allow him to “pass on his passion.” The goal of becoming a professor at the collegiate level empowers him to perform but also pass on the passion to anyone who wants it.
A word from Will to students: “Keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Keep walking and climbing up that hill, and you will reach the top... don’t ever go backwards. Keep moving forward.”
By Aisha Gallion