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Faculty Feature: Dr. Christopher Probst

Where are you from and how long have you been teaching at JSU?

I’m originally from Pennsylvania and went to undergrad at Lebanon Valley College of Pennsylvania and earned a B.S. in Music Education and a B.A. in Trumpet Performance. I then went to the University of Arizona for an M.M. in Trumpet Performance, and then Florida International University in Miami for an M.M. in Jazz Studies. I earned my doctorate at the University of Georgia and began teaching at JSU in the fall of 2013.

What classes do you teach?

I’m currently teaching about 30 applied trumpet lessons a week, directing Jazz Ensemble 2 and JSU Trumpet Ensemble, and coaching student brass quintets. I’m also the advisor for all of the high brass (trumpet and horn) music majors.

What is your favorite course to teach and why?

Applied trumpet. My favorite thing about applied lessons is that, as opposed to a lecture class, it’s one-on-one teaching. So, I get to come up with ways of teaching material and concepts that work for the individual student. If they don’t understand something, I have to think of another way of describing or demonstrating it. It keeps my brain working all day! Also, playing an instrument is a physical, intellectual, emotional, and artistic endeavor. So, when students are struggling to perform to their ability, we have to figure out which of those elements is causing problems and diagnose ways for students to improve.

Do you sponsor any clubs or organizations on campus?

I’m the faculty advisor for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) and for a music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.

Did you always plan on teaching music?

No. From about the time I was 4, I wanted to be a marine biologist. When I was in high school, I was taking all the extra science classes I could, but also playing in all the music ensembles, too. I ended up realizing that I enjoyed music more than anatomy and physiology and started looking at music departments instead of marine science for college.

What is your favorite thing about JSU?

The students. Musicians tend to be very engaged, and I appreciate the energy and eagerness to learn that most of my students have. I’ve run across surprisingly few knuckleheads in the last seven years!

Are you currently working on any creative projects?

Always! I regularly perform with the Huntsville Symphony, Rome Symphony, and Gadsden Symphony, as well as with Orquesta MaCuba- a salsa band in Atlanta, and other regional jazz and commercial groups. I recently premiered a new composition for trumpet at a conference, and I really enjoy the chance to play new music. I’d like to get a recital together for when we get back in Mason Hall, and also maybe turn that into a mini tour at some other Universities.

Where is the coolest location you’ve performed?

That’s a tough question. I more vividly remember the amazing musicians I’ve had the chance to play with. But I’ve gotten to play in lots of cool venues like beautiful cathedrals, sports stadiums, concert halls, and outdoor stages in several countries. I guess the most interesting was on a modified 18 wheeler truck that opened up into a stage (just like a Transformer) at a street festival in Stanger, South Africa.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

My one year old daughter, Isabelle, is awesome. Also, the growth of the trumpet studio here at JSU. When I started here, we had 26 students in the studio. Now we have one of the largest trumpet studios in the country (40), and our retention is way up. I’m also proud that I still get to perform as much as I do. It’s important to stay relevant in your field in any profession. In music, that includes the physical demands of playing the instrument, and performing every week helps!

Do you have any advice for JSU musicians? Manage your time diligently. Manage every 15-minute chunk of your day that isn’t class. Schedule your break times—they tend to be the 30 minutes that turn into 2 hours. You are taking 18 hours or more a semester and are expected to improve on your instrument through consistent daily practice. There aren’t any hours during the day that are “free.”

Christopher Probst

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