A funny thing happened to Christian Ricketts on his way to earning his bachelor’s degree in Music Education – Instrumental: The Stetson student fell in love again with clarinet, his primary instrument.
“Coming into college, I used to say that if I could never play my instrument another day in my life, I would be okay with that as long as I could teach,” Ricketts says. “That’s what I really wanted to do.”
Growing up in Coral Springs, Florida, Ricketts inherited his love of teaching from his grandparents, who were educators in their native Jamaica.
Though he took up clarinet in the sixth grade and made the all-county band as an eighth-grader, his passion for numbers led him to consider becoming a math teacher.
“But then I got to calculus and I said, ‘Oh!’ ” Ricketts says with a laugh. “After that I was like, ‘No, I’m good.’ Then I turned to using my other love, which was music.”
He chuckles that his high school yearbook proclaims he “will be attending Florida State University for music education.”
“I didn’t know until I came for my audition that Stetson was where I wanted to be,” Ricketts says. “I came here and it felt like home. You know home when you get there.”
Stetson, he discovered, also was home to “rigorous academic work. I was always forced outside of my comfort zone. But the best part about it is our faculty are so involved with us that you’re never really on your own with anything. Help is literally only a couple of walks down the hall to one of our professors’ offices, or an email away, or in a study session with classmates.”
Lynn Musco, Ph.D., Professor of Music, Clarinet, and Coordinator of Woodwind Studies, became more than an instructor to Ricketts.
“She’s been a great inspiration and a second mom to me while I’ve been at Stetson,” Ricketts says. “She pushed me in the moments where I wanted to give up and slack off. The philosophy she’s always instilled in us is ‘Even though you’re not a performance major, I’m going to hold you to the same level as a performance major because that’s how you’re going to be a successful teacher.’ ”
That approach reignited Ricketts’ passion for playing clarinet alongside his passion for teaching.
Because of her lessons, “I love playing my instrument,” he says. “I can’t see not playing. It’s something I hold near and dear to my heart and because I’m a better player, I will be a better teacher. If you want to teach high-performance students, you have to be a high performer yourself.”
While saxophone – “a cousin of the clarinet” – is Ricketts’ second primary instrument, the music education curriculum gave him a basic knowledge of trumpet, trombone, piano and other instruments.
“I can find my way around the keyboard, and that in turn transfers over to music theory,” he says.
Ricketts found less time to make his way around campus.
“I’ll be honest with you — being music students, we’re very much mainly within the walls of Presser Hall about 97% of our time,” he says. “The opportunity to get outside of the music building is there, and some students take advantage of it more than others. I wasn’t super involved outside of the music school as much as I would have liked. However, I’ve met people outside the music school who, when I see them around campus, are friendly to me. Nobody’s ever really a stranger here.”
Along with serving as vice president for the Stetson chapter of the National Association for Music Education and working in the School of Music as an admissions assistant, Ricketts also has been interning with the band program at Ormond Beach Middle School and its Director of Bands, Bill Guthrie.
“It’s been a blast working with the students, who are always so hard-working, and with Mr. Bill Guthrie,” Ricketts says.
After graduation, Ricketts hopes to land a job as a middle school band director himself.
But his role will entail more than that, he says: “Whenever I talk to people about my philosophy and what I really see myself doing, I don’t really see it as teaching just music. We’re teaching these kids how to be better people through music. A lot of my ideals, leadership skills and whatnot I learned through various band programs that I’ve been a part of.
“Those things follow you the rest of your life. As a teacher, we’re not always expecting students to become music majors. That’s not what we want. Rather we want them to learn things like discipline, to go further in life, to be who they are, to be better people, and at the end of the day be an advocate for what we do in the performing arts.”
— Rick de Yampert