Dr. Greg Haynes is a Connecticut-based percussionist, educator, and composer. As a performer, Haynes is active as both a soloist and a chamber player, having performed concertos by Keiko Abe, Allan Bell, Michael Daugherty, Craig Fitzpatrick, Ney Rosauro, and Kerwin Young in addition to solo recitals, chamber works, and large ensemble pieces throughout the United States and internationally. Haynes serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Western Connecticut State University. In the years previous to his current employment, Haynes served on the faculties of Western State Colorado University, Missouri Western State University, and Missouri Southern State University. While Haynes holds several music degrees including the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Kansas, he received his first undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science from the University of Georgia, which provided a foundation for contributing to interdisciplinary projects connecting music to mathematics and computer science. Working with Dr. John Peterson in the field of computer science, Haynes became a co-developer for the Nuterpea project, which allows musical structures to be represented in an intuitive programming language, accessible to students and adults with an interest in musical composition. As a composer, Haynes's compositions have been featured in music festivals including the 2014 ISM Percussion Festival in Santa Fe, Argentina, and the 2015 Electronic Music Midwest festival in Kansas City. Haynes is the owner of Strikeclef Publishing, a new publishing company for percussion compositions, and also works as a film and media composer through GHM Scoring. His recent scores include those for Wish You Were Here - The Robert C. Bishop Story, The Tesla Files, and Wildness, a web series sponsored by The Center for Humans & Nature. His game music arrangements have been featured on several notable websites including kotaku.com and gonintendo.com.
Check out the below interview with Greg!
Since you are new to Connecticut, tell us a little bit about your background in music and percussion. Can you remember a turning point, or “Ah-ha!” moment when you realized you wanted a career in music?
Considering a career in music, I think the critical moment for me came a few months after I finished my first undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science at the University of Georgia. I was working full time in a non-music occupation and had just married my wife who I had met in the percussion studio. I'd always been involved with music and participated heavily in drumline, steel band, percussion ensemble, and wind band while in college. When this involvement ended following graduation, I started to realize I couldn't stand not playing music every single day. Each night, following my shift, I would sneak into the music building and practice marimba for three hours or more, working on techniques and learning new literature. It was all I wanted to do. After a few months of this, I realized that I had to be a musician, and I would do whatever it took to have a career in the field. I re-enrolled at the university, finished a double course load equal to the undergraduate music core in a year's time, and subsequently started my master's degree in percussion performance. I was so fortunate to have wonderful teachers, mentors, and family members who supported this critical decision.
In your bio, it says you’ve lived everywhere from Kansas, Georgia, and most recently, Colorado. What advice can you give students who are looking to break into their local drum/percussion scene?
I think the most important advice is to be a good person and seek out opportunities to add value to the projects surrounding you. It is critical to be an excellent player, to be early and fully-prepared for every rehearsal, and to be a good communicator. Beyond this, however, people really want to work with other musicians who are friendly, humble, and reliable. True friendships emerge out of this profession. If you have recently relocated to a new area (as I have experienced several times), just know that it will take time and persistence to build your network to the point of receiving the level and volume of opportunites you would like. Depending on the location, this process seems to take around three or four years for most people, myself included. It's also important to be pro-active with your own projects. Create something fresh and meaningful; invite others to contribute.
After a 47 year career at WCSU, legacy is a word which comes to mind when thinking of Mr. Smith’s storied career. If you were to fast forward to the end of your career, what sort of legacy would you hope to leave behind? Is there anything fresh and exciting you are looking forward to bringing to the percussion tradition at WCSU?
It is truly an honor to take up this post following the legendary Mr. Smith, and I look forward to being a tireless advocate of every percussion student who comes through this program. As with Mr. Smith, I hope my legacy will comprise hundreds of fulfilled music professionals of whom I had the privilege to teach. It is a tremendous opportunity to work with the talented students of WestConn, and I intend to push their musical limits to provide experiences of meaningful success. One exciting project we anticipate this coming spring is a complete performance of Steve Reich's Sextet by our chamber percussion group. Additionally, I enjoy composing new works to feature my students, and I am a strong proponent of steel band inclusion in university percussion programs. Look for these elements in our upcoming concert on Dec. 4th!
Applying for and winning a tenure track university position is no easy task. Can you briefly describe your past experiences applying for jobs, and what the process was like. What advice do you have for local DMA candidates who will soon be applying.
It's true that tenure track positions are becoming more and more competitive, and I've certainly learned a lot from my experiences, both as an applicant and also as a member of various faculty search committees. I do have a couple thoughts to offer. First off, it's important to be yourself when applying for a new position. People can sense the difference between authenticity and forced impression. If a job is offered, you want to know that they are hiring you, and not whoever you were trying to be that day. Also, it's important to recognize all that you have to offer in an academic setting. To a graduate student finishing a DMA, I would strongly advise being open to opportunities working with professionals in other disciplines. Some of my most exciting projects have involved working with filmmakers, computer scientists, and mathematicians. The intersection between music and other disciplines is replete with possibilities, and I believe these experiences can distinguish one candidate from another when applying for a new position.
Connecticut has a rich tradition of rudimental drumming and marching percussion which is sometimes frowned upon by classically trained percussionists. What advice can you give students who are equally passionate about pageantry and classical percussion?
As a percussionist who came straight out of the drumline tradition myself, I think we are all on the same side of the table. For students who are passionate about multiple activities in any field, I would say this: make sure you can fulfill your obligations at the highest level and always bring your day planner with you.
What role has PAS played in your career as a performer and educator thus far?
PAS is a constant source of inspiration for me. It is incredible to be part of a network in which the greatest performers and teachers are so accessible. I learn so much at every PASIC I attend, and it is an honor to be a contributing member to the organization.
With your first semester almost at a close, what do you find is your favorite part of your new job?
The students. Truly, every class is my favorite class, and every student is my favorite student.
How can alumni and prospective students best keep in touch with what is going on with you and the percussion program at WCSU?
We have recently launched a studio page where I will upload recordings and videos that feature our students along with information regarding our upcoming events and concerts.
Is there anything else you would like to add, or we should know about Dr. Greg Haynes?
For students interested in our program at WestConn, don't hesitate to send me an email to get in touch. We are living in the golden age of percussion, and I'm very excited for all that's in store for us.