I have to start with Brittany. She's my best friend and one of the most influential people in my life. I still find it amazing that despite both of us coming from Texas, we had to meet in Alabama! From the day I looked into those blue eyes, I was hooked. I would not have made it through everything without having your hand to hold. I could write a whole entry just on her, but some things are too important and mean too much to try to flesh out in a paragraph or two. :) I love you, sweetheart!
To Skip Snead, Linda Cummins and the Graduate School who had a hand in admitting me to the program, you helped put to rest a chain of feelings of inadequacy in my abilities as a student that ran VERY deep. I still have my acceptance letter in my files, and other than the admission to candidacy this past spring, I consider being admitted to the DMA program at UA to be confirmation that I CAN do this...that I deserved to pursue this, and that old wrongs can be righted. Without the assistantship, I'm not sure I could have made this degree happen. I hope I have represented the school in the way you hoped I would.
To Ken Ozzello and Demondrae Thurman, who inspired me with their leadership, friendliness, and commitment to their crafts, thank you! My ensemble experience at UA was among the best I've had in the collegiate setting, and there were moments in concerts here that rank right up there on my list of "moments." Having soloed under both of their batons, I can say that the experiences were very different, but each very moving and exciting. I would be honored to do it again sometime, gentlemen. :) My only regret is not having played in Chris Kozak's jazz ensemble more than the one tune I played.
To my colleagues in the trombone studio, in particular John Shanks and Lucas Kaspar, both of whom platooned with me in the Fall of 2010, thank you for being easy to work with, tolerant of me both personally and musically, and for helping make some of my greatest moments on the trombone happen in the past three years. There were bumps in the road and misunderstandings, but the best part is that at the end of the day, I had a LOT of fun both with the horn and without it, and having you as colleagues has been a blast. My role as a leader could only have been as successful as it was if there were people willing to trust me and go along with my decisions in the principal chair. To Ben Carrasquillo, Stanley Lacey and Chris Davis, thanks for following me into battle, guys. To the next generation of leaders in the studio, I can't wait to see what you do with the torch now that it has been passed.
To the UA music faculty, you have been nothing short of the best, and I am so thankful to have befriended so many of you along the way. To see you at work, doing what you do so well, has given me a lofty standard to try to achieve. I hope I make you proud! Seeing you as people, interacting with your families and colleagues, makes you all the more real, and therefore, all the more special. For those of you who have opened your homes and hearts to me, I will never forget your generosity!
When Jon Whitaker called me in August of 2009, I thought something had gone wrong with my Alessi Seminar payment. I'm not apt to write rubber checks, but I was certainly relieved when the voice on the other end of the phone said, "What's up, man? How ya been?" I was coming out of my masters with NO INTENTION of ever getting a DMA. By the end of the conversation, Jon had convinced me to find a weekend to visit campus 'just to hang out.' By the end of that trip, we had booked an audition, and the rest is history. I could go on and on with the reasons why, but plainly put, Jon is the blueprint for a young aspiring professional to emulate. I am honored to be his student, honored to have been a part of building this monster studio at Alabama, and more than the rest of that, I am honored to call him my friend. Jon, coming to Alabama altered the course of my life in a big, big way, and I wouldn't be the player I am today with your coaching. On top of all that, he has the cutest kids in America, and his wife is pretty dang cool, too....even when I pour 32 ounces of red Kool-Aid on her off white carpet. :)
There are others I should thank, but it is late, and the tiredness I wasn't feeling has now set in. Alabama, it's been great. You'll always have a special place in my heart, and I'll be back to visit soon. ROLL TIDE!!!