Practicing What He Teaches

Posted by Paula Paine on September 10, 2014 in jazz, "jazz ensemble", "jazz studies", "Music Education", "Nick Rowland", Rowland, saxophone, "Todd Wilkinson" Nick Rowland took a career path that, while a bit longer and more winding than some, eventually led him to where he’s meant to be. On stage and in the classroom.
Right out of high school, Rowland did what he was “supposed to do” – go to college. But, he admits, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living. I wasn’t mature enough to make a decision or to take my studies seriously, so I moved on.” For him, that was the right thing to do, because eight years and a wealth of musical experience later, he knows without a doubt that being a music teacher is his calling.
To make that calling a reality, Rowland’s long-time mentor and friend, Dr. Todd Wilkinson, presented him with the opportunity to finish school, as well as help build the jazz program at Ottawa University. Rowland jumped at the chance.
“The opportunity to finish my degree in Music Education is a great one indeed,” says Rowland. “What is special about my experience at OU is that I’m part of building this music and jazz department from the ground up. It is very gratifying to see the students and community start to develop a passion for the music that I have loved my whole life.”
Rowland has been playing professionally in Kansas City since 2005, starting off in a band called Grandpa’s Cough Syrup. “We were pretty lousy,” says Rowland, “but we played often and learned a lot between about 2005 and 2009. I began studying and learning from some of the seasoned professionals in the area and eventually started to play well enough to get calls to fill in with various bands. During that time, I also began playing regularly with pianist Tim Whitmer. From there, my network kept growing and now I do several regular gigs and play more and more as a ‘saxophone-for-hire.’”
In addition to his increased visibility as a performer, Rowland began teaching private saxophone lessons and was hired as a music clinician at a number of public schools in the Kansas City area, running jazz rehearsals, saxophone sectionals, concert band classes, and more.
“I found that I had a knack for communicating with students of all ages, and the ability to educate clearly and effectively,” says Rowland. “All of my experiences in teaching both privately and in the classroom have been gratifying and eye-opening. I now know that I love to teach and that I want to do it for a living.” His goal is to become an elementary or middle school band director, or a general music teacher in an elementary school, while continuing his career as a performer.
Rowland is on track to graduate in the spring of 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Education, which Ottawa University added to its academic programming in 2013. His emphasis is in instrumental music.
As a student, Rowland is involved in both the Brave Jazz Ensemble and jazz combos on campus and plays regularly in the Ottawa community. Though returning to school as a non-traditional married adult student has been a challenge (he and wife Alexis were married his first semester at OU), OU’s residential campus has been a good fit for him.
“Going back to school has been more difficult than I thought it would be,” he admits. “Balancing all of my studies, performing, teaching, and being a newlywed has been a real challenge, but the faculty at OU have been a pillar of support for me. Even though I’m in a much different walk of life than most of the students around me, the professors are all understanding of that. I have been able to develop important and meaningful relationships with them, and they ensure that I am receiving the education that I deserve. This is the perfect place to be for a more intimate college education.”