Associate professor and trumpet player fuses research, teaching and artistry to make his mark on Texas Tech.
In February, the Texas Tech University System announced its 2022 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Awards to honor outstanding faculty members who provide exceptional opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting the eight Texas Tech University faculty members who were recognized.
Andrew Stetson is an associate professor of trumpet in the School of Music, housed within the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts at Texas Tech University. Stetson's research seeks to answer one question – how can musicians use music to transform lives?
First and foremost a trumpet player, Stetson also is a clinician, educator and scholar. As a musician, Stetson has performed with the Alabama Symphony, Albany Symphony (NY), Boston Philharmonic, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Lubbock Symphony and was recently named principal trumpet of the Steamboat Springs Symphony Orchestra. He received his bachelor's degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, his master's degree from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and his doctoral degree from Boston University.
Since coming to Texas Tech in 2013, Stetson has continued to grow as a performer and educator. The winner of the 2016 Hemphill-Wells New Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, a university-wide honor at Texas Tech, Stetson continues to serve as a committed and diligent educator. Stetson's students have been invited to perform in several national and international music competitions and various musical organizations across the U.S.
Stetson's latest research focuses on the psychological and sociological aspects of musical performances. He is fascinated with how audiences interact with live music and the various factors that go into each performance.
Due to his excellence in teaching and research, Stetson was named a 2022 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Award recipient. This award is given to individuals who exemplify teaching or research excellence and who have significantly advanced teaching or research efforts and are noted as leaders among colleagues and in their respective fields. Established in 2001, they are the highest honors given to Texas Tech University System faculty members.
Can you describe your research and its impact, both in academics and society?
Musicians have a unique ability to make an impact on both their academic field and society at large. Our performances on campus, in the community or on stages across the globe require an audience to receive them. Each performance is a research study and is somewhat sociological. What will audiences react to? What will they enjoy? How can we reflect the human experience through sound and art in a way that can be interpreted as such? Captivating music can move audiences to tears or deliver a thrill and joy, sometimes both. As we change our musical phrasing and sonic color, we can tap into a listener's senses and transform consciousness to a memory or a more hopeful future. I'm obsessed with these kinds of things as a performer and as a coach for my students. How can we use music to transform people's lives? What are those skills? How can we practice them?
What projects are you working on currently?
I've always got a lot going on musically. In the classroom, I'm working with my wonderful colleague, Kevin Whalen, who also teaches trumpet, to coach two trumpet ensembles (18 students total) as they prepare for the invitational rounds of the National Trumpet Competition taking place this spring.
Just a few weeks ago, I had my debut performance as the permanent principal trumpet of the Steamboat Springs Symphony. We played a symphony by Jean Sibelius, selections from Gustav Holst's “The Planets” and several pieces by John Williams. There was a lot of trumpet in the concert!
Soon, I'll be recording my second solo CD with several collaborators. This new recording will feature several works from an organization we've partnered with on some grant funding. “Diversify the Stand” has worked to release a new book of trumpet solos at various levels of difficulty. These works all feature underrepresented composers. One of the project's goals, which I share with this recording, is to expand the canon to be more inclusive of musical voices that are historically overlooked. Alongside this solo record, I'll be working to produce video performances featuring Texas Tech students and alumni. I'm also preparing for a week with the Albany Symphony. I'll be playing third trumpet on the performances, including an American premiere of a piece by John Williams and several other contemporary works.
Right after that, I'll be performing as a soloist with the Recife Symphony Orchestra in Brazil with Texas Tech's new director of orchestral studies, Lanfranco Marcelletti, conducting.
What areas are you interested in for future research?
I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with new composers and performers. Within that, I'm very curious about two things: “What makes a great performance truly great, and what makes one person ‘make it' and another fail?”
As the old saying goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” I'm just not so sure. There's more to it than that, and in classical music, not all of it has been particularly fair or kind to certain groups of people. Maybe if we work to understand how biases can play a role, we can create a more inclusive art.
I've had this goal for a while, maybe even to apply for a development leave, and just move to New York City for a semester and spend that time trying to make connections to see how a working musician can get started there and interview people who are established and making their mark.
What rewards do you get from teaching?
The type of teaching I engage in is very special. I see dozens of students in one-on-one settings each week, and most of the time, for all four years of their study here. That allows us to get into a level of detail together that most instructors simply don't have time for.
I have witnessed students display incredible growth as musicians, scholars, artists, and citizens within that time. It's incredible to see students connect their learning from across all areas of the university and bring it into focus within their musical voice on an instrument. When they move from practice to their own performances, it's remarkable to witness.
I am lucky to have so many students who have become educators in their own careers. Seeing the ripple effects of that is tremendously rewarding.
What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?
I needed to be in academia. I don't know what other career, especially with an arts focus, would allow me to wear so many hats and call it part of my job. Some days I get to travel with students as they compete in competitions and be there as a mentor and teacher. Other days, I get to be a quasi-travel agent budgeting for student travel and helping them apply for grants. Some days I get to perform within some of our nation's top symphony orchestras. Some days I get to plan guest artist visits and design posters and issue press releases. Some days I get to design new classes and courses of study and propose them to various committees and councils. Some days I get to present clinics at conferences and conventions. Some days I get to be more isolated and just practice my instrument. The variety keeps me going, and I love the constant shifting of gears.
How has Texas Tech helped you advance your research and teaching?
Texas Tech is a Carnegie Tier One research university. Yet, they still make a point to consider creative works part of our research output. Not all universities are like that. You can look at every operation policy and procedure, and every tenure and promotion document, and see research listed with an “and” after it. At Texas Tech, it's research and creative activity, so we're lucky to have a university that's inclusive of creative works in their research mission.
I was impressed to see Vice President for Research and Innovation Joseph Heppert express so clearly in a press release the reaffirmation of our Carnegie classification. He said, “I am intensely proud of all of the artistic, scholarly, creative and research activities carried out by our faculty, students and staff.”
Even the Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Award being given to me as an artist is something unique that not many of our peer institutions would even consider.
The biggest way Texas Tech has allowed me to advance my research and teaching is by its insistence on including art and creative work as a fabric of its research mission. It makes Texas Tech a special place but also a global and forward-thinking leader.
Who has had the biggest impact on you and your career, and why?
This kind of question is tough for me. As a musician, nothing we do is done alone. Almost all music is performed in a group, and even solo performances require an audience to complete the conversation. I feel like everyone I've ever collaborated with has had an impact in some way, and those add up. Every student I've taught, every teacher I've had, every colleague I work with, every family member and every person I've shared the stage with has helped shape my career profoundly. I've needed all of them, and I'm grateful for each one.