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Grad profiles – Dajhumbay Russell

Grad profiles – Dajhumbay Russell

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Dajhumbay Russell

Dajhumbay RussellDegree Earned: Bachelors of Arts in Music Education and Music Performance
Hometown: West Bloomfield Michigan
High School: Homeschooled through Accelerated Christian Education program (A.C.E)

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?

  • NIU Steelband for all six years
  • Rides to and from performances with my band mates and the performances themselves
  • Got to perform with steel pan greats like Andy Narell, Victor Provost, Leon Foster, and our very own professor Liam Teague
  • NIU Huskie Marching Band my first year
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Jazz Combo
  • Going to the football games (when I had time)
  • Lastly, the many people that I met that made the experience so much fun and inspiring. My peers and the daily journeys we embarked upon. Ha ha.

What’s next for you?
Now that I’ve completed my degree I am looking to start teaching music in the public school system. I’m open to teach in Illinois (of course) Michigan, and/or Florida. I will also continue what I’ve always loved to do which is perform at many different venues over the summer. Gigging will always be a part of my professional career. Looking further down the path I’d like to start a private lesson studio where I will teach students how to play the steel pan, drum set, and piano.

What’s one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career?
One piece of advice I’ve learned is that you should always be looking for ways to improve yourself. Never stop growing. However, make sure to pat yourself on the back for the accomplishments you have made and be confident in yourself. There will always be people who will criticize what you are trying to do. Stay true to yourself.

How was your experience at Northern different than what you expected when you started?
Something that was different from what I expected in my first year were the people I spent my free time with. I spent a good deal of time with friends from a slightly different demographic from my own. Between the steel pan studio (consists of all pan majors) and people from drum line, I was welcomed into more of a family type of environment than one might expect their first year.

If you could thank someone, or more than one person, that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be and what would you say?
It would be Professor Liam Teague, Lynn Retherford, and Dr. [David] Maki.

To Liam:
Thank you for all that you poured into my life. Thank you for teaching me to reach for the stars and to always be aware of my progress. Thank you for always keeping it real with me and being more than just my professor. You’ve been a mentor and a true inspiration! I’ve learned so much just from your work ethic and dedication to your craft alone. I feel blessed to have been your student.

To Lynn:
Thank you for all of your assistance and support. As the music students always say you’re the one that we come to when we’re in need of serious help! You’re like a superhero. I can’t count how many times I came to you with issues regarding registration, licensure and just day to day questions and every time you were able to help me in some way or another! So, I thank you so much for always being a helping hand.

What’s something you’d like to come back to do one more time?|
That’s easy! Come back and play with the NIU Steelband just one more time!

What are some of the things you’re most proud of from your time at Northern?

  • Greatly improving  my musicianship both on paper and practice
  • Getting to trade solos with Victor Provost (truly an Honor)
  • Performing at Virginia International Pan Fest
  • Performing with the Chicago Sinfonietta at the Chicago Symphony Center
  • Producing a great senior recital

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020, what would it be?
Always be true to yourself, but be open minded and hear people out. Choose your professors/classes wisely and your friends even more wisely. Enjoy every moment of this experience! Meet new people. Go to as many events as you can without sacrificing your homework. Take breaks. Get yourself a great study buddy. Always have a plan! Face every obstacle with courage. Be confident in what you do know but also realize you don’t know everything. Most Importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! That is one of the most mature things you can do.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad Profiles – Andrew Brimm

Grad Profiles – Andrew Brimm

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Andrew BrimmAndrew Brimm

Degree earned: Bachelors in Music Education with a focus on instrumental studies
Hometown: Braidwood, Ill.
High School: Reed-Custer High School
Transfer from: Joliet Junior College after earning his associate degree in general education with studies in music technology

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
The music building is right next to the lagoon and I would take the time in between classes to walk around the lagoon or walk around the older part of campus where Altgeld Hall and the law building [Swen Parson Hall] are. Those were some of my best memories, especially during the summer, spring time, or early in the fall semester when it was just really nice out. It was like a break from music but it was refreshing for sure.

What’s next for you?
I am teaching some private lessons for clarinet, and saxophone here in my home town and in the school district. I’m also substitute teaching before all the pandemic stuff happened. I’m still applying for full-time band director positions, mainly high schools and middle schools in the state.

What’s one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career?
A phrase that I take with me is “putting energy into the things that I can control.” There’s a lot of things that happen just in life and in the world, whether it is in our jobs or academics–things that we can worry about and ponder and be stressed about that don’t necessarily help us and take away from what we’re really trying to do. I know that’s kind of been the case, especially now with all the pandemic stuff. You should definitely put the energy into job applications. As I work in teaching my students, I’ll be asking myself what could I do better for them?

How was your experience at Northern different than what you expected when you started?
I thought I was going to come in and it was very much going to be like my community college experience. That there was going to be very small group of people that I knew and hung out with. That was very much not the case. When I got to Northern I found a group of friends that were all musicians and educators that I was with, but mostly the whole School of Music that I was a part of. There’s so much diversity. For example, we had a lot of people from China. We had people from South Korea, we had people from Trinidad and different states across the US. Even the people that were brought into master classes were from around the world. That always surprised me. I didn’t think it was going to be like that. I thought it was going to be much more centralized. NIU definitely put me out of my comfort zone as far as exploring things. So much so that I went overseas last summer to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria. I’ll always cherish that experience. NIU pushed the boundaries of diversity and expanded my comfort zone.

What was the experience in Salzburg like?
I did a two week stay to kind of fill a music history requirement. It was a two week stint out there doing a program called the Mozart Project. Salzburg is the hometown of Mozart. I researched the initial developments of the clarinet and mechanical advances as well as looking at Mozart’s clarinet concerto, which he wrote later in his life. He specifically wrote it for an individual virtuoso clarinet player called Anton Stadler who he worked very closely with.

If you could thank someone, or more than one person, that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be and what would you say?
I would definitely thank my private lessons instructor Dr. [Greg] Barrett. He is such an interesting individual, and he’s always so cheery and excited to talk about the clarinet and to hear what students are doing. He really expanded my knowledge of the clarinet and gave me plenty of things to work on. Things that I can bring to my younger students in the classroom. Those are all things that I really latch on to, especially now that I’ve been teaching a lot of my students digitally.

What’s something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I would have to say that I’d like to walk around the lagoon one more time on a nice, clear, sunny day.

What are some of the things you’re most proud of from your time at Northern?
I think one of the coolest moments I had at Northern was last spring, I was part of the Defiant Requiem.  At the end, after the last couple of chords in the requiem, I was in a clarinet solo starting out, and then the choir joins in and everybody starts to leave the stage one at a time. It was a great experience for all of us on the stage and the people in the audience.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020, what would it be?
The idea of putting energy into things you can control should reverberate with them. Don’t take anything for granted. I think I definitely did that at Northern. I took a lot of things for granted, especially when I started to student teach. I grew so close to so many people, and I got so busy teaching every day at high schools and middle schools, that I kind of lost touch with some my friends and faculty to some extent. There wasn’t like the small talk that we would have in between classes or something like that. I definitely missed that. Take those opportunities to go hang out with friends, too. You definitely don’t get those things back once they’re gone.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Music Building sidewalk to be site of memorial walk, June 11

Music Building sidewalk to be site of memorial walk, June 11

“Say Their Names” a memorial walk to honor the memory of unarmed victims of police violence will be held, Saturday, June 13 on the sidewalk on the east side of the NIU Music Building at 550 Lucinda Avenue. The walk has been organized by a number of students from the NIU School of Music.

Say Their Names poster

You are encouraged to bring flowers, photos, and prayers to leave behind.

Grad Profiles – Kristin Brandt

Grad Profiles – Kristin Brandt

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Kristin Brandt

Kristin BrandtDegree earned – Master of Music in Music Education
Hometown – Freeport, Ill.
High School – Freeport High School
Undergraduate Degree – Carthage College – B.A. in Music Education

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
My best memories all come back to the relationships I have built! I have become a better educator and person because of the people I have met at NIU!

What’s next for you?
I will begin my 7th year of teaching music! I teach K-5th grade general music in Kenosha, Wisc. I hope to continue my own learning, so I am at my very best for my students!

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
The one piece of advice I have learned throughout my time is to never stop learning. It is important to remember that just because you have the degree doesn’t mean you should stop learning. There is always more to learn and gain in life and your career! Take opportunities that will help you continue to grow!

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
I would like to thank Dr. Mary Lynn Doherty for always encouraging me in my work as an educator and helping me solve obstacles when needed! You have been an incredible mentor and someone I will always look up to!

What is something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I would like to come back one more time to take in the surroundings and enjoy the great people! College campuses have always held a special place in my heart. I feel my best and happiest in these environments!

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
I am proud of the work I have done and the knowledge I have gained. It wasn’t always easy working full time and being enrolled in a graduate degree program…but it was worth it! I have already seen my students benefit from me continuing my own education! I hope I can inspire them to reach for their goals and dreams and to pursue whatever it is they want!

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
Enjoy every moment. College will be some of the best years of your life. Say yes to all the opportunities given to you. You won’t regret it! Work hard, have fun, and use this time to grow into the person you want to be! The years will fly by and you will miss them one day!

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad Profiles – Sarah Castro

Grad Profiles – Sarah Castro

Recent NIU graduates haven’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Sarah CastroSarah Castro

Degree Earned: Bachelor of Music in Music Education with an emphasis in Voice
Hometown: Plainfield, Ill.
High School: Plainfield South
Transferred to NIU from: North Central College

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
Some of my best memories are just walking around campus or just walking around the streets of DeKalb.  NIU is one of a kind and there were just a lot of unique things that would either happen to me or I would witness. A lot of times people would post things that you would see, like the hashtag #onlyinDeKalb, and that’s because it’s the truth.

In the School of Music most of my memories are about needing to practice and study. I would run into other students and I talk to them for hours. It was the perfect distraction from any work that I had to do. There was a hangout–mostly a congregation of students who were near the entry door by the large ensemble room or near Room 151. It eventually got called the black hole, because as you left the School of Music, someone would yell your name and say “hi” and talk to you, and then all of a sudden you got sucked into the black hole. You could talk for hours and often times that would turn into people getting food or hanging out at someone else’s house, just to continue being around each other. I made a lot of friends being a transfer student. I didn’t really know anyone at first, so a lot of times just that experience alone allowed me to get to know other students outside of my instrument area.

I have one more and it’s sillier. Dr. [Eric] Johnson made a reference to the Hash Slinging Slasher from SpongeBob. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.

What’s next for you ?
Just working hard, paying off loans and teaching general music choir and voice.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career?
I know throughout my college career, I have always been a sponge and I’m just constantly absorbing information, absorbing experiences, taking in the people that I’m learning from and taking in the peers that I’m also learning from. I’ll definitely have that same attitude going forward in my career and in life. You learn in the moment. You try to take in everything that’s happening. I’ve actually been able to make excellent connections through my own learning to help me understand things, and through my way of communicating and teaching other people.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
When I transferred it was out of financial necessity and I had to go somewhere that was affordable for the future I was pursuing.  When I transferred to NIU I didn’t realize that I stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.  The School of Music is such a gem. I had no idea that NIU existed in that way. The people, the students, the faculty are what make me thankful every day that I transferred. NIU isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it was my cup of tea and I drank it to the end. I didn’t have love for college until I came to NIU. I am proud to call NIU my alma mater.

If you could thank someone, or more than one person, that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be?
I definitely would like to give a special thanks to Dr. [Mary Lynn] Doherty, Dr. [Christine] D’Alexander, Lynn Retherford, Dr. Johnson, Dr. [Orna] Arania, and also to Barb and Joe King, even though they aren’t part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. I want to tell all those people that they played a central role in shaping the person that I am today. “You are more than a professor and you teach more than what is in the books. You have no idea how I appreciate all of you and how thankful I am to be your student and have worked with you. Thank you for letting me continue your legacy throughout my life and career. I hope I can make you as proud as I feel to be a graduate of the School of Music.”

What is something you’d like to come back and do one more time?
Probably just performing and conducting. I had a great time. I had a blast performing. As a music educator I won’t really get that satisfaction, unless I pursue a professional choir, which maybe I will. I’ll be the one who’s teaching music instead of singing music.

What are some things you’re most proud of from your time at NIU?
There are a lot of things. I think I am most proud of being able to perform solos in orchestral and non-orchestral works, definitely the NIU Chamber Choir, and being the music director for NIU Penguin Players for three productions. I earned multiple music scholarships and non-music scholarships over the years. I’m just lucky enough to be recognized for the work that I’ve put out in the universe. For some reason, NIU said, “Yes, you are a good investment, here’s some money.” I’m proud to just be able to be a part of that.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020, who will be starting at NIU this fall, what would it be?
I definitely say live by the motto ‘work hard, play hard and have an open mind.’ This is a chance for you to have a fresh start. While you are so fresh and green, please have an open mind. You’re leaving  behind the concept of trying to fit someone else’s box and now you’re able to shape your own box.  Allow yourself to start anew without others’ expectations. College can be fun, but a little too fun. You need to keep yourself in check on your own before you decide to hang out with friends. Get that paper done, or at least started. This takes practice. It’s a journey not an end goal. If you work on it now, I promise you that the balance you develop between work and fun in four or five years will definitely make you proud of yourself and the work you put into this world.

Anything else?
I was able to work with Dr. Johnson as a research assistant for the School of Music and that’s when my journey working with Cor Cantiamo started. I was working closely with him to promote the concerts, talking, getting people to come to the concerts, posting blurbs in church bulletins and also helping him write grants.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.