What made you want to be a musician ?
I can’t say I woke up on a specific day and suddenly thought “Okay this is what I’m going to do.” I can’t even say a particular experience made me want to be a musician. Instead, it’s a decision I reflect on and make every day. The notable violinist Issac Stern said very fittingly that being a musician is “a way of life,” and I find that to be true.
My mom used to take me and my brother to play music at local nursing homes twice a month. There I was, a 9-year-old kid playing “Over the Rainbow” on an out-of-tune upright piano, and suddenly a 97-year-old man would start humming the tune and sing along. I can’t count the amount of times that I saw music affect so many souls at those nursing homes. I kept performing at local nursing homes, and during my college years I eventually became the director of an outreach program in Baltimore where I and my fellow colleagues performed all over the city. Whether we played for a little boy going through chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins Hospital, or a homeless woman who was recovering from a drug addiction at a local charity house, our music helped them find meaning. I could see that sharing music directly with people connected us in immeasurable ways. Those kinds of experiences always reveal the reasons why I love being a musician.
You don’t have to look far to see what a troubled world we live in. Now that it’s getting smaller with technology and social media, we feel affected more directly by tragedies, world disasters, violence, etc. the list goes on. And I often find myself thinking “Where do I belong in all this?” But by bringing music to people – whether through performing or teaching – we discover our interconnected harmony in this world. In that way, being a musician is my vocation.
Each of us is called to find the extraordinary out of the seemingly ordinary. As a musician, I love discovering the ‘extraordinary’ in every note I can – whether it’s that special chord at the end of a late Beethoven sonata or the first few measures of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune.” Through music, I hope to illuminate that timeless place in all of us where life is full of goodness, beauty, and meaning. I feel very blessed and grateful to have this vocation in my life.
Where did you receive your degree ?
I obtained both my B.M. and M.M. degrees from Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. I give special credit to my wonderful teacher and mentor there, Brian Ganz, who made it possible for me to push myself in innovative ways and to see obstacles as opportunities. I joke with people that in addition to being my teacher at Peabody, Brian was also my ‘spiritual guru.’
Who’s your favorite customer ?
I’d have to say my favorite composer right now is J.S. Bach. I begin every day with Bach, whether it’s playing a few fugues out of the Well-Tempered Clavier or listening to one of the hundreds of beautiful Cantatas. Even when in minor key, Bach’s music is inspiring, uplifting, and spiritual. His music is both brain and soul food.
What’s your favor song in your playlist ? My favorite song on my playlist right now is Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” I love the positive message of the song, and it’s something everyone can relate to. Let’s be honest, when challenges come, sometimes you gotta just “Shake it off!”
The Music School also welcomes a number of new faculty members to Southern Delaware and the Milford Branch.
Devin Mercer will be joining the voice faculty at the Dover satellite of the Music School’s Milford Branch. He received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in voice and voice pedagogy from The Peabody Conservatory.
The Music School appointed Jeremy Edler as the music therapist for its new music therapy program in southern Delaware. He joins the school with a Master of Music degree in music therapy from Immaculata University and clinical internship experience through the Delaware Autism Program.
Christiaan Clark, a recent graduate from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Music degree in guitar performance and composition, joined the faculty in Spring 2015. He is currently working on expanding his private guitar studio and will be directing the new Guitar and Mandolin Ensemble in Milford this coming year.
Dr. Patrick Hoffman, trumpet faculty at the Music School’s Milford Branch, studied at the University of Illinois, Indiana University and the University of Georgia. He is a tenured professor at Delaware State University, as well as an avid performer both as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the tri-state region.
Gus Mercante, voice, began teaching at the Milford Branch in spring 2015. He received his Master of Music degree in vocal performance and opera from the University of North Texas. Well-loved by his students, he continues to grow his private studio in addition to balancing a demanding performance career as a countertenor.