Prof. Michael Boyle. Photo by Hope Dawson

Hope Dawson: What is your name and your position at OCCC? 

Music Prof. Michael Boyle: Professor Boyle, that’s Michael Boyle, um I have been Professor of Music here at OCCC. This is my 16th year, been teaching music ever since. 

H: What made you choose music as your career? 

M: Well, that’s a long story. I knew I wanted to be a musician from the time I was very young. I played in the grade school band, and sang in the spring sing, and I’ve just always enjoyed music. The true music geek in me came out in high school when I started doing honor band, and all state, and later all-american honor band stuff, that allowed me to travel the country and tour Europe with a band. I just fell in love with it so I got my music degree from the University of Cincinnati and then I went right into the food service industry, because it is hard to make a living as a musician. So by the time I was 28 years old I was executive chef of a fancy restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio. And when I was in my 40s I decided to quit being a chef and go back and get my advanced degree in music. So I got my master’s in 2006 and I started working here in 2006 as well. It’s hard for musicians to find full time paying jobs like this one, and OCCC pays for my laptop, and my Steinway piano, and for the performing musicians it’s very difficult to make a living. But I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to teach music, and play music, and do it for a living. 

H: Who was your main musical influence growing up? 

M: Oh gosh, my main musical influence growing up. If I had to narrow it down to one it would be Paul McCartney. But let’s just call it Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. The influences were really way too many, and that is reflected in my career as a musician. I grew up in the 70s so mom’s record collection, my mom was a theater professional, so Oklahoma, West Side Story, Camelot, The King and I, all the classic musicals were played at the house. My dad got Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the day it came out, I have been spinning that record ever since. Those influences, playing in orchestras in high school, I got turned onto the operas of verdi when I was a 16 year old kid. I played in a punk band when I was in college, because well it was the late 70s early 80s. So to narrow it down to one Influence is very tough. There’s a lot of educators who really had a big say in who I am today as a musician. There was an article about one of my professors from the University of Cincinnati in the New York Times last week, she was my tech coach and she’s the finest trumpet player I have ever heard. Those were the kinds of influences I had. My bass teacher when I was a grad student who I had a love-hate relationship with, we’re okay now, but I wouldn’t have this gig at OCCC without his really, really demanding style. So I tend to, I tell this to all my students you’re gonna learn the most from the teachers that push you the hardest. So that’s why we as the music faculty push em real hard here. 

H: Why do you believe the arts are important in our education system? 

M: Oh gosh, the arts teach so much more than just the notes on the page. For example, we’re working on a series of projects in the jazz ensemble. On February 11th we’re going to Weatherford, Oklahoma to perform in the SWOSU jazz festival. What that teaches the students is that there is a logistical element to everything that we do. We have to show up, we have to load the bus, get to Weatherford on time, we have to warm up, we have to tune up, we have to be on stage at this time here, then we go eat lunch, then we do the clinic, then we do the critique, then we see the concert, then we load up the bus and do the whole thing in reverse. You gotta sign your waivers, you gotta bring your dinner money, it’s all that kind of stuff. So

we’re teaching, just on that project alone, we’re teaching logistics, budgeting, time management, how to work as a team, and we haven’t even started on the critical thinking skills. What makes a good soloist with the band? Well you gotta know what chords fit together and how to approach the musical end of it. So it’s much more than, like I said, the notes on the page, teamwork, logistics, planning, budgeting, critical thinking. And these all build into workforce skills, because these are what the employers want our students to have when they leave OCCC. And these are what the transfer institutions, UCO, OU, expect our students to have. Working in teams is a huge one. You would not believe how highly that is rated in our employer surveys when they say, “what do you really want the students to know when they leave?” Working in teams. So that’s a really important one and there is no better team at work than a band that has been playing together and knows how to rehearse things. It’s a lot like sports, for those of you who have been in the sports world. You can say “ok we did that play perfectly the coach said to do it again.” Well that’s repetition, we build that repetition in so we know what it feels like to do something right every single time. And sometimes it takes repetition to get those things going right but those are the things that you learn, and really, those are the things I hope my students take out into wherever they go to work. Whether it’s being a music teacher, or a computer programmer, or an engineer that’s doing some production for a rap star or something like that, those are the types of skills because I can teach you a [scale runs], we’ve known how to teach that for 300 years. But teach them the digital skills and all the stuff the students need to succeed these days is much more than notes on a page.

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