Taking the stage
Faces of ASU Special Edition: Clinton Curtis
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 18:03
As a music major, you’re expected to have a deep seeded knowledge of musical history and theory, be able to play multiple types of instruments frontwards, backwards and using only your toes, and be able to identify a composer of a musical piece just by hearing it once; and no, Taylor Swift doesn’t count. But what if you appreciate and love music like any other non-music major, and happen to be really great at what you do?
Clinton Curtis, a senior music education major of Trumann, is one of the many talented students in the ASU music department. But although Curtis has accomplished much during his time at ASU, he hasn’t always been involved with the world of music.
“It’s kind of funny because when I was younger I would profess to people that I didn’t really like music at all, I didn’t listen to stuff, which is weird to say as a music person,” Curtis said.
Coming from a musical family it seemed only natural that Curtis would take up the mantle of a musician as well, and when the 6th grade came around Curtis began his career in music, wielding the alto saxophone as his chosen weapon.
“I didn’t play trumpet because I didn’t want to play the same thing my dad and my brother did,” he said. “I wasn’t really interested in the brass stuff, I didn’t have enough coordination for percussion and I certainly didn’t want to play the clarinet or flute as a 6th grader,” Curtis said with a laugh.
Curtis’ decision to come to ASU and pursue a degree in music education partly spurred from his older brother Joseph’s enrollment at ASU. Through his brother, Clinton attended almost every athletic event and concert at ASU.
“Early on, when Joseph came here I knew where I was going to go. I wasn’t really interested in going anywhere else,” he said. “I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
Since coming to ASU, Curtis has been involved with numerous ensembles, quartets and bands.
He has been in the wind enseble since his first semester and has played the principal chair for saxophone in that ensemble since his second semester. He has also played the principal chair in jazz band.
Curtis remembers his freshman year when the famous Monroe, La. composer Frank Ticheli came to ASU to give a concert featuring several of his musical compositions.
“That was a big deal for the saxophone quartet. It was also kind of nerve racking, because here you are one semester removed from high school, from a small school in Trumann, and here’s Frank Ticheli on campus,” Curtis said.
Curtis has also played for the Honors Recital, where both band and choir students audition to perform a special concert at the end of the semester.
Aside from playing in many of the various facets of concert bands, Curtis has also lead the Arkansas State “Sound of the Natural State” marching band through three seasons of Red Wolves football.
“I was really excited to do it once I came to ASU. It’s something I definitely wanted to do once I graduated high school,” he said. “When I was in high school I never really thought I wanted to be drum major, but I saw the list of people trying out one year, going into my junior year, and I was like ‘I don’t want any of these people to be drum major.’”
Curtis said his love for both sports and music has made his involvement with the athletic band and being a drum major one of the most exciting things he has done since attending ASU.
“It’ll be nice to go strictly as a fan next year to the football games. I’ll still probably be interested in the band and what they are doing for halftime though,” Curtis said.
After graduating, Curtis plans to get an internship and teach band at the high school level. Curtis said he has no aspirations to teach at the collegiate level and since high school he has always wanted to teach high school band.
“Students are different at the high school level than at the collegiate level. When a student first gets an instrument (at that level) it’s really exciting for them, and to some degree that excitement really isn’t there anymore when you get into college,” he said. “When you’re young and you first get your instrument even if you don’t really like to play that much or you’re not very good you’re still excited to play. Every day in band you are just like ‘dude, let’s play something!’”
Curtis admits he differs from some people in the music department. He notes most people seem to think academic music is the only type of good music once you get into listening and playing that type of music, but he still listens to the popular music heard on the radio.
“I still consider the stuff you turn on the radio, the top 40 stuff, as good music. I don’t see how somebody can criticize a pop artist who writes about a breakup, and puts the time and effort into the music, and consider it not music,” he said. “I don’t like all of it, but I don’t like all academic music either.”
Curtis is a prime example of a student who works hard to pursue what he loves to do and excels at it, despite having a slightly different outlook on music than most other music majors.