A COM music graduate shares his story

Matthew Crawford came to College of the Mainland two decades ago and now lives and performs in New York. His story won third place in the Your Story, Your Words competition.

"Twenty-five years ago, I was a high school student and a struggling beginner drummer. I always knew that I loved music and I wanted to make it my life’s work, but it was because of my studies at COM and three faculty members there that I have gone on to make a career in music and enjoy a life filled with music.

I began playing musicals at COM in 1987 thanks to Reggie Schwander. I could hardly read a note of music, but Reggie believed in me and my talents.  He gave me many opportunities for playing drums at COM as well as allowing me to receive college credits while still attending high school. Reggie was a good friend and after his passing I was so pleased to hear that COM began a scholarship in his honor.

Sparky Koerner is a true definition of a jazz musician, educator and friend. Without his guidance, patience and passion for America’s classical music, jazz, I doubt I ever would have become so involved with this wonderful music. Sparky was able to help me understand the importance of this great music and its rich history of fine musicians. He helped me understand that it is not only fun to play jazz, but an honor to be part of the grand conversation shared between musicians on bandstands around the world.  

Sparky would tell us in combo rehearsals, 'If want to make it as a professional musician practice is key, but most importantly never be late. If you are early you are on time, if you are on time you are late, and if you are late, you have no excuse.' To this day I’m proud to say that I’ve never missed a single gig, nor have I been late to one. Thanks to Sparky I have been able to become a professional  musician and earn a respectful living in the field of jazz and many other genres of music.

Bob Adams - my drum teacher, my mentor and my friend. Lessons were not merely the rudiments of good drumming, but often lengthy listening and discussion sessions about the music and players such as Art Blakey, Billie Higgins and Louie Bellson. Bob taught by encouraging me and being a positive influence on my playing, never once saying a discouraging word, even when my playing was not at its best.  He was always there with “Just keep at it Matt, you're sounding better every week," while giving me the help I needed to improve.   

Bob introduced me to other musicians and gave me some of my first gigs as a professional musician. With any award I’ve received, audition passed or accomplishment earned as a drummer, I have Bob Adams to thank for his caring and positive teaching.

Without COM and these three individuals I know without a doubt that I could not have had the successes I’ve enjoyed and become the musician I am today. I owe them all my most sincere respect and gratitude.

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