I played fiddle in the Celtic Ensemble for five semesters. Admittedly at first I was somewhat intimidated to participate because I was not a music major and had absolutely no affiliation with the Texas Tech School of Music or any other arts program at Texas Tech. The decision to join took my college experience to a whole new level. Everyone was friendly. The group was very welcoming, encouraging, and supportive. The music of course was stimulating and fun. However, the Ensemble was about so much more than just playing music, singing songs, telling stories, and dancing. It opened my eyes to a different flavor of human history - a less well-known one defined by community, culture, individuality, and plight of the common man. In the five semesters that I actively participated, there were many different show themes that we performed - Irish, Old-Time Appalachian, Balkan, Gypsy, and even Pirate Sea Shanties. However, one common theme to all of the shows was sharing. The Ensemble experience was a daily reminder of the difference one can make through sharing. Sharing music. Sharing stories. Sharing time. Sharing burdens. Sharing experiences. Sharing life.
My name is William Combs and I have been playing trombone in the Celtic Ensemble for about 6 years. Playing in this ensemble has given me the opportunity to learn how to create and manage a project from the very glimmer of life or inspiration to a final product that can be presented to an audience. My experiences in that group have shaped me into the professional musician I am today.
As a music student at Texas Tech University, the Vernacular Music Center not only helped me develop my musicianship, but also helped me appreciate the traditions of other cultures and find my passion for musicology.
I decided to join the Celtic Ensemble my sophomore year of college for an experience that was different from the classical music norm. I ended up falling in love with both the tradition and the ensemble. Dr. Christopher Smith, the ensemble director, was incredibly inspiring--he taught me to look at music in new ways and cultivated my love for understanding the culture and history of the music I was performing. Just looking at pictures of the ensemble on the homepage brings a tear to my eye, since the ensemble itself was such a welcoming and warm place. It was there that I formed some of my best friendships of all time, and I did it through music.
After my experience with the Celtic Ensemble, I went on to participate in the TTU World Music Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Cimarusti. Once again, I had a phenomenal experience. The ensemble explored cultures from across the world, including Argentina, Mexico, Italy, and West Africa, and presented these traditions to both Texas Tech University and the Lubbock Community. Through dance, drumming, and singing, I made wonderful friendships, made connections between musics of different cultures, and truly fell in love with the study of world music.
Through performing with the VMC and working on research projects with VMC professors Dr. Jocoy and Dr. Cimarusti, I discovered my passion for musicology. After college, I went on to intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Archive in Washington, DC, where I digitized reel-to-reels of traditional music from across the world. I will be pursuing a degree in library science this fall at the University of Maryland, where I hope to gain the tools I need to become a music archivist. Through this career, I wish to work towards preserving and researching world music, bringing it to the public eye, and making the same impact on the world that the VMC made on me. Thank you, VMC! I wouldn't be here without you!
- Arts Practice Research