Director of Bands
Years of Service: 28
What brought you to Lewis & Clark? After teaching high school in Oregon for eleven years, I was advised by my former university band director that I should look closely at the director of bands position at Lewis & Clark. I was not in the job market, and I was very content teaching at South Eugene High School. After persistent prodding from my mentor, I gradually became interested in the prospect of working at the college level. The wind and jazz program at Lewis & Clark had not had a full-time faculty member guiding them for the previous five years, so the added challenge of building a program was also attractive. It is the only college job I ever applied for and it had the added bonus of allowing me to continue to teach concert band, jazz, and music education rather than specialize in one area. Getting to remain in Oregon sealed the deal.
What course have you most enjoyed teaching and why? Between undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education courses, I have taught nearly forty different classes or ensembles at Lewis & Clark. Naturally, I’ve most enjoyed conducting our concert band, the Wind Symphony. I am, and always will be, a band director.
What is the most significant change you’ve seen at L&C during your time here? For me personally, the structural change from a school of music to a department of music was most significant. This happened during my first year at the college. The change was appropriate and more in sync with the changing vision for the College of Arts and Sciences, but the subsequent loss of faculty positions in our department and image problems made recruiting difficult for several years. However, it has been gratifying to see the eventual emergence of an even stronger department over the years.
Can you describe an experience with a student that affirmed your love of teaching or passion for research? My main research and outreach interests are driven most by a wish to help music educators succeed. Over the years, this has been increasingly directed toward finding suitable repertoire for bands with less-than-ideal instrumentation, which many of our beginning music teachers encounter in their first positions or in struggling middle and high school band programs. I have been fortunate to work closely with the Teacher Education program in the graduate school. Many of our graduates are among the leading music educators in the state. It has been a joy to continue to work with many of them each summer at the Lewis & Clark Workshop in New and Proven Band Literature, sponsored for the past 28 years by the college’s Center for Community Engagement.
Describe the most memorable moment of your time at Lewis & Clark. The most life-changing “moment” in my career would have to be when I first got the idea of creating and leading an overseas program with a fine arts focus and a heavy emphasis on music. My wife and I had never been overseas, and this set in motion events that drastically changed and enriched our lives. Leading our first program to London in 1992— and the post-program travel throughout Europe with our children—opened the floodgates to subsequent European travel. This experience led to me becoming director of the Oregon Ambassadors of Music. This summer, we will have led over 2000 Oregon high school band and choir students on concert tours of Europe. We were also fortunate to lead four more programs in London with some of Lewis & Clark’s most wonderful and talented music, theatre, and visual arts students. The musical and social experiences we’ve enjoyed in the company of students are far beyond anything we could have ever dreamed of.
What is something that others would find surprising about you? During my high school years in Corvallis, playing in the band was by far the most interesting and important activity. However, it wasn’t just about the music. The real attraction increasingly became one of the flute players, who happened to be the band director’s daughter, Kathy. We’ll be celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary this summer. As the lyrics of one of my favorite Gershwin tunes say, “who could ask for anything more?”
What is your favorite place on campus and why? Having to pick one favorite place on campus is difficult, but it would have to be Agnes Flanagan Chapel, especially now that the renovation and musical enhancements have been completed. From my daughter’s wedding to my retirement concert, I’ve enjoyed so many meaningful personal events and wonderful performances by students and guest artists in that beautiful space.
What will you miss most about coming here every day? I’ve never taken the incredible year-round beauty of our campus for granted for a single day, but I can still come and visit that. What I’ll miss most is seeing and working with so many exceptional students, faculty, and staff that make up the college community in this very special place.
What accomplishments are you most proud of? I’m most proud of the outreach work I have done for Oregon high school bands. My early band festivals at Lewis & Clark became the prototype for the Oregon High School Band, Orchestra, and Choir Championships, which I helped the Oregon School Activities Association initiate and develop. The adjudication system that a colleague and I developed nearly 30 years ago is still in use and the musical standards throughout Oregon’s high school music groups are far above where they were at the beginning of my career, in part because of this. My annual summer band literature workshops have brought twenty-six prominent band composers to campus and have helped to build community and networking between young and old band directors in the region. It is most gratifying to see how well these kind of activities have helped serve our own music education graduates and band alumni, many of whom now occupy significant leadership positions in music education and are among the state’s most respected music teachers.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to doing? I’m looking forward to spending much more time with my wife, children, and grandchildren. My two children are both music teachers in the area, including Andy Becker M.A.T. ’10. Secondly, as all instrumental musicians know, one can never spend too much time on major scales, so I’ll do as much of that as possible – both in getting my “chops” back up on bassoon and clarinet and putting in many hours pursuing salmon and steelhead on my boat named “Major Scales.” We will spend most of our time living in Manzanita and enjoying the beautiful North Oregon Coast, but I plan to stay professionally involved, continuing with Oregon Ambassador of Music tours, serving on the executive board of the Oregon Music Educators Association, and adjudicating festivals and conducting clinics for high school bands. This fall, I will begin become conductor of the North Coast Symphonic Band, so I’ll still have a band to conduct. I just couldn’t retire from that part of my musical life.