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Lasting memory
By Dan Haerle ('66 M.M.), Regents Professor of jazz studies



THROUGHOUT MY YEARS AS A JAZZ STUDIES PROFESSOR AT UNT, it has been my pleasure and privilege to work with highly motivated students from practically every state and probably 15 or 20 foreign countries. Now in my 25th year at North Texas, I recall that I was once one of those students and think about my experiences on "both sides of the fence."

I came to campus in 1963 as a graduate student. I had been teaching instrumental music at the elementary and secondary levels and started my graduate work in music education. However, I had always been interested in composition — it's similar to improvisation, the creative process in jazz. So, I changed my major to composition.

As a student at North Texas, I felt like a hungry baby bird with my mouth wide open waiting to be fed. I was truly hungry for more knowledge and aspired to a higher standard of musicianship as a pianist. What I found wherever I turned in the school of music were people ready and willing to "feed" me. If you showed the faculty you were serious about your desire to improve, they would respond with everything they could possibly do for you.

I thrived on the dynamic and stimulating environment, and my fellow students were willing to contribute to any kind of creative project I might organize. So there was an ongoing series of jam sessions, rehearsals and performances of compositions and many hours of listening to and talking about music.

What attracted me to North Texas was the jazz program that I had heard about by word of mouth from numerous musicians. Although I was studying composition, I was fortunate to secure a position as a teaching assistant in jazz. I directed a lab band and taught arranging and improvisation.

Leon Breeden, longtime director of the jazz program and the One O'Clock Lab Band, fostered my growth as a jazz arranger/composer and pianist. He remains a mentor who inspires me — he's an outstanding performer, an excellent director and, most of all, a man with a high degree of integrity. My experience as one of his assistants greatly influenced my later decision to specialize in jazz education.

When I left North Texas in 1966, it was the last place I expected to come back to in my professional career. I taught, wrote music and performed in Kansas, California, Florida, New York and Arizona. When the opportunity came for me to return to North Texas in 1977, I realized I could make a contribution and liked the idea of working with the outstanding students I knew were here. It provided the opportunity for me to foster the growth of talented young musicians and, I hope, to be a positive force in their lives as so many of my professors had been in mine.

I don't take credit for my students' success — they have to earn it themselves through hard work — but my career at UNT has been extremely gratifying and fulfilling. I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to study and teach here.



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