Senior Spotlight: Alex Preston

Posted on May 16th, 2020 by

The “Senior Spotlight” series honors graduating fine arts majors for their contributions to the Gustavus community.

Alex Preston is a music major and arts administration minor from Denver, CO. After graduation, he hopes to start a career that combines his passion for music composition, sound engineering, arts administration, and non-profit work. Preston played tenor saxophone in the Gustavus Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Professor Dave Stamps, and has taken lessons and independent studies to further his music composition skills. “Preston is the kind of person that all educators absolutely love to work with,” Stamps says. “He’s hardworking, eternally curious, respectful of everyone, and shows tremendous pride in the quality of his work.”

We asked Preston to give us a little insight into his time at Gustavus and how he’s “staying musical” while living at home.

What will you miss most about music at Gustavus?
AP: By and far the people. I have met some of the greatest friends of my life at Gustavus, and they’ve all been a part of the music department. I’m going to miss the midnight practice room chats, the impromptu gatherings in the courtyard, the coffee trips, the tours, and everything in between. The friends I’ve made over the past four years are not ones I’ll ever forget.

What’s a favorite memory you have from your time in music here?
AP: At the beginning of the year I had the opportunity to go on a trip of a lifetime: a jazz tour in Singapore and Malaysia. I remember every footstep and wrong note of that trip, but my favorite was the day we spent in Penang, Malaysia. We spent the morning hiking through a jungle learning about and seeing plants and animals that had only existed in children’s books and biology texts. At the end of our hike, we climbed to the highest point of Penang Island and soaked in what I’m convinced is one of the greatest views on this planet. On one side a tall city filled with rich history and even richer music, and on the other, a dense jungle that runs right up to the ocean. I spent the day in reflection and could only be torn away by the great company I had spent the day with, and to top it all off, we had our best gig of the tour that night. Energy was high, we were playing our favorite charts, and everything just clicked. That day will be burned in my memory for the rest of my life.

How are you continuing your music in your new surroundings?
AP: Now that I’m back home in Colorado, I am once again living in my parents’ apartment. Luckily, my neighbors are used to hearing me doodle around so they don’t mind my practicing (at least they haven’t said anything about it for the past 10 years). I have been able to keep a pretty consistent practice schedule and I’ve been working on several transcriptions, as well as some of the repertoire I would have performed at my senior recital.

What has it been like to “be musical” at home?
AP: Writing has been another story. It has been incredibly challenging trying to find the right headspace to write. Where I would have normally fled to a practice room in the corner of the music building at 1  a.m. for privacy, I can now only walk a few steps and close my bedroom door, which does next to nothing to drown out the TV in the next room.

I’m also missing the atmosphere of the music building. There’s a great feeling about walking into the music building, coffee in hand and backpack weighing me down, knowing I’m going to sit down at a piano for the next four or five hours. Now that I’m at home, the only space I have is my small bedroom, a 32-key plastic keyboard, and a chair that squeaks if you look at it funny. It’s not all bad though. I’ve started writing again this week, in short 2-3 hours bursts, and the ideas are finally starting to come again!

What professor has made the biggest impact on you and why?
AP: The professors that changed my life personally and musically, the professors I would like to express my deepest gratitude to, are Dr. Alexandra Bryant and Dr. Dave Stamps.

I had the privilege of sitting in Dr. Bryant’s classes for three of my four years at Gustavus, and let me tell you I have never seen a more determined, head-strong, and loving educator in my life. Whether it’s adapting her entire class model to fit the specific needs of her students, or cooking all day for one of her iconic soup parties, everything Dr. Bryant does for her students expresses the utmost passion for her craft. The time I have spent with Dr. Bryant learning, workshopping my own writing, and discussing life was time fondly spent, and I’ll carry the lessons she’s taught me for the rest of my life.

If you yell the name Dave Stamps down the main hallway of the music building, I guarantee you every practice room will pop open with a student eagerly asking which way he went. Dave is the most well-loved professor in the music building, and with good reason. I’ve been a student of Dave’s for three years and I have looked forward to attending every one of his classes, rehearsals, and independent studies, without exception. His excitement for music is palpable, and he is constantly creating new opportunities for his students to learn and to share their music with the world. I learned so much during our independent study sessions, and even if I felt down on myself as a writer walking in, I always walked out feeling refreshed, inspired, and excited to get back to work. Dave is always juggling forty balls in the air but I know for a fact he would gladly drop them all for his students.

 

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