Who’s that swingin’ guitarist you see at Thursday’s jazz night? Why, it’s sophomore Corey Heppner.
Heppner is part of Knox’s Jazz ensemble (big band), and a member of three combos. Jazz ensemble works on whole musical pieces, where as combos take a melody then improvise over it.
“Big band is awesome, but I have more fun doing combos. It’s totally spontaneous,” said Heppner.
In addition to these groups, Heppner also plays on his own and at open mic events as part of the background music. He averages about eight hours a week playing music.
What started out as a hobby four-and-a-half years ago has now turned into Heppner’s major. His saxophonist brother and all the music he listened to as a kid inspired Heppner.
“Even though I didn’t understand it, I liked it,” said Heppner.
Heppner was introduced to his love of jazz through gypsy jazz, and has since moved on to enjoying the Brazilian/Latin style, bebop and cool jazz.
“The creative inspiration and desire to play became extremely strong,” he said, adding that he now has “the want and the determination,” to pursue the major,. The free lessons, as well, were a good incentive toward getting Heppner to play.
“Jazz, I can’t really describe the feeling. It doesn’t give me one individual emotion,” he said.
Instead he referenced philosopher Jankelevitch’s “experience of the sublime” to describe how jazz makes him feel.
“Music represents music, it’s a thing in itself, but you can’t deny that music makes you feel one way or the other,” he said.
What Heppner finds most challenging about being a music major is the fact that “you’re on the path to be an artist…[there’s] a lot of uncertainty, but at the same time that’s what’s fun about it.”
“Some live successful lives, but [some] play their whole lives [and] are always scraping to get by. Some can become nomads with no place to settle,” he said.
Heppner had a guitar teacher once that led this nomadic life; he was “searching to find something steady.”
Heppner added that the teacher has now settled down and is getting married.
“Being a musician can be lonely,” said Heppner. Though he’s both worried and excited about what path he will take, he said, “people say that if you follow your heart you can’t go wrong.”
Being at Knox, though, has helped ease that nervousness. Since he has been a music major here, he has “seen many successes coming out of Knox.” Heppner attributes this to all the support the music department offers. The faculty are the ones that run the combos and are “very encouraging and supportive…[they] have faith in everybody in the program, that they can succeed.”
But Heppner knows success will come from how much time and work he puts into his music. Heppner believes the faculty to be good examples of professional players.
“I like to hear their stories about past gigs,” he said. “I credit them most with what I’ve done here.”
He found them especially helpful in learning to play with others.
“Jazz is all about interacting with the other players,” he said.
Heppner has big dreams when he graduates from Knox in 2010. He does not intend to go to grad school right away. R”whereather he would like to see if he could make it as a musicion when he gets out of college. He would really like to play on a cruise ship, where he said there is money to be made, plus free room and board.
The cruises are four to six months long. He dreams of playing for a group like Cirque de Soleil, and “travel with a performing arts group. It would be fun to play music and dress up in crazy suits,” he said.
If he does go back to grad school, it will be for the performing arts. He wants to make his own music someday.