Texas Tech University

Visually Impaired Cello Professor Will Share His Story with Texas Tech Graduates

Jeffrey Lastrapes
Jeffrey Lastrapes

In recent years, Texas Tech University has turned to some of its most notable alumni and former administrators to inspire its graduates as they begin the next chapter of their lives. For the summer 2017 commencement ceremonies, the university is turning to one of its own faculty members, one whose unique story gives witness to the university's slogan, "From here, it's possible."

Jeffrey Lastrapes is an associate professor of cello and chair of strings in the School of Music. Born with a birth defect that left him nearly blind in both eyes, Lastrapes understood from an early age he would never be able to play contact sports, so instead, he gravitated toward music. He began playing the piano and violin, but in the sixth grade, he switched to the cello, which he'd long admired.

He became so accomplished on the cello that by age 16, he was recruited to Temple University. He moved from his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to start his college career. From Temple University, he advanced to the Curtis Institute of Music and then the prestigious Juilliard School, where he earned his master's degree.

His music has taken him around the world; he has appeared with symphonies from Baton Rouge and Midland-Odessa to Chile, Honduras and France. He has performed frequently for radio and television broadcasts the world over and has released two recordings of his music. He even cofounded the Caerus Ensemble, a flexible chamber music outreach group that performs throughout West Texas.

But his other passion is teaching. In addition to his role at Texas Tech, Lastrapes is on the faculty of the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts and recently was honored for 20 years of teaching at the famous Interlochen Center for the Arts. He teaches cello there every summer during the Interlochen Arts Camp.

"The Texas Tech phrase " from here it's possible' is 100 percent accurate," Lastrapes said. "With a degree from Texas Tech and a support system of remarkable faculty and staff, anything is possible from Texas Tech. I've been all over the world as a result of some of my work at Texas Tech. I've seen amazing things happen here every semester, month, week and day."

Texas Tech's summer commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 12) at United Supermarkets Arena, 1701 Indiana Ave.

"Texas Tech University and the College of Visual & Performing Arts are fortunate to have someone of Jeffrey's caliber on our faculty, and we are grateful to him for sharing a message with our graduates," said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. "Jeffrey's achievements as a performer contribute to wonderful learning opportunities for the students he teaches and mentors."


The ceremony for the colleges of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Architecture, Arts & Sciences, Education,Media & Communication and the Graduate School (doctoral and master's students for the colleges listed) begins at 9 a.m.

The ceremony for the Rawls College of Business, the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, the College of Human Sciences, University Programs, the College of Visual & Performing Arts, Wind Energy and the Graduate School (doctoral and master's candidates for the colleges listed) begins at 1:30 p.m.

"I am deeply honored to have this chance to speak to these soon-to-be graduates," Lastrapes said. "I think my story can possibly inspire them to be strong during adversity, keep perspective on what is good in their lives and hopefully bring empathy and understanding to those around them. My speech will not be a lecture but instead a thought-provoking few minutes of reflection and perspective."

Commencement ceremonies can be viewed live online here.

For more information about commencement, including maps, parking and commendations visit the commencement website.

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