The immediate chance to lead and perform.
The School of Music at Millikin University does not have graduate students, meaning (a) all students, regardless of major, study with a professor instead of a graduate student/teaching assistant, and (b) all students can assume leadership roles and perform with our flagship ensembles as soon as they set foot on campus. Our exclusively undergraduate enrollment provides students with incredible educational experiences that cannot be replicated at other institutions.
The preparation for a shifting musical landscape.
Over the past fifty years, this profession has slowly but steadily undergone an undeniable transformation: musicians must diversify their interests and skill sets to earn a living. Simply put, it is no longer enough to exclusively be a fine orchestral clarinetist (my nearsighted goal as I completed my undergraduate studies!); we have to reimagine the professional musician as an entrepreneur, an administrator, an educator, and a scholar in addition to the expected level of consummate artistry we all aspire to exemplify in our work.
A rich tradition of excellence.
Millikin University clarinet alumni have gone on to have successful careers as university professors, public school music teachers, and private instructors in both the central Illinois area and beyond. Former students of mine have been accepted to summer festivals both in the United States and Europe, have commissioned and premiered new works for clarinet as a solo instrument and in chamber ensembles, and have been accepted for graduate studies with assistantships at various universities throughout the United States.
These three factors, along with our world-class faculty throughout the School of Music, prepare students for their short- and long-term success as professional musicians in contemporary society.
We have many performance opportunities at Millikin University designed to provide students with the variety of experiences necessary for success in their professional careers. By performing in a multitude of ensembles including the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra, Millikin Chamber Orchestra, musical theatre productions, and numerous chamber ensembles, students are equipped to thrive as musicians and educators in an increasingly diverse line of work. Faculty conductors and chamber music coaches use their years of professional experience as the basis for leading students in rehearsals and concerts, reinforcing the skills students work to develop and refine in their applied study.
In my mind, the opportunity for students to perform in the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra alongside their respective applied professor and area professional musicians is worth multiple years of study by itself! Students selected for this honor benefit from the experience of preparing demanding repertoire on a professional rehearsal schedule and are able to refine their musicianship and ensemble skills in real time, learning through feedback from myself and other professional musicians.
One of the hallmarks (if not the hallmark) of a Millikin education is the idea of Performance Learning: the integration of theoretical knowledge and practical experiences into an educational experience greater than the sum of its parts. This experiential, hands-on approach to learning teaches students how to advance and succeed in their professional and personal endeavors. Performance Learning is very much synonymous with my own belief that, simply put, we get better at the clarinet by playing the clarinet. I believe in providing my students with an abundance of opportunities to perform, both formal—see Performance Opportunities—and informal, in order to apply the concepts inculcated in individual lessons and ascertain what skills are progressing appropriately and which need further attention. Through guided reflection and evaluation, performance becomes not only a culmination of preparation but one step in a longer trajectory of development and growth.
It is my job as an educator to help students realize their own potential. In a typical week, I get to work with each of my students for roughly two hours—one hour in our applied lesson, one hour in our studio class. This leaves 166 hours where students have to be their own teachers. To this end, one of the fundamental tenets of my teaching is to help students think critically and identify problems and solutions in their own playing. Through years of study and experimentation, I have accumulated a diverse set of pedagogical approaches to the instrument that have worked not only for me but for my students. My goal in sharing these approaches with students is that they will find what works best for them and helps them achieve their goals as musicians, whether it is something I recommend or another approach they discover through their own experimentation.
Through my performing and research, I continually seek to exemplify the excellence and diversity of interests that I cultivate in my students. In addition to my teaching at Millikin University, I maintain an active international career as a performing clarinetist in both solo and chamber settings. My areas of interest include commissioning new compositions for the clarinet, the intersection of performance and analysis in the clarinet repertoire, and the music of American composer David Maslanka. Prior to joining the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra as Principal Clarinet, I held E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet positions in various orchestras throughout the Midwest, providing me with an unusually diverse flexibility in my ensemble skills and an approach to these instruments informed by pragmatic experiences.
No matter a student’s goals and aspirations in music, my hope is to facilitate their development into the best possible musician and person they can be. I take this responsibility quite seriously and guarantee I will do whatever I can to ensure each student’s enjoyment and success during their education.