Ricky Paz is a second-year music education major with a primary focus on percussion with hopes to give back to the drum corps community and the marching arts by becoming a band director. He has done a lot in the two years of being at Valparaiso University, including taking on educational opportunities and growing his love for music.
Paz went through his high school years thinking that meteorology was in his future.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a meteorologist, I always enjoyed the weather,” said Paz.
Then senior year came around and he found a new pathway.
“Then when I hit senior year, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to perform with all my friends and do the thing [marching band] that I had loved to do for the past six years and that hit close to home,” Paz said. “So I decided that it didn’t have to be over and I found a passion for teaching music.”
After figuring out he wanted to pursue music, he had no idea where to start.
“I didn’t explore any colleges, I also didn’t do much college research,” Paz said.
He then found the university he was meant to be at.
“Then I found out Valpo was close to home and they had the major I wanted,” Paz said. “I then went and took a visit to Valpo and I knew it was the place I had to be and the right people to be around. It was almost like a dream come true.”
He decided to take on a new opportunity over the summer of 2021.
“There is a unique set of skills that is learned from drum corps. Essentially, Drum Corps International, which is our governing body, is the major league of marching arts. Drum corps is, in a simple sense, the professional level of the marching band,” said Paz.
Paz has taken many opportunities throughout his two years here at Valpo, most recently becoming an orchestra manager.
“I am currently the orchestra manager. I have applied for this position in years past and it has been a prodigious one to hold at Valpo. The position is essentially the orchestra director’s right-hand man. It is super exciting,” Paz said.
Being the orchestra director’s right-hand man helps him prepare for his career.
“It helps me with my major because it helps me learn a little more about responsibility from the director's side of things. I do get a lot of the student side of things also, considering I’m a student and I perform in multiple ensembles on campus. I can learn about a new perspective and a new set of skills to learn how to run an orchestra,” Paz said.
Although Paz wants to become a band director after he graduates, he views this step into his future as only step one.
“There is one thing band instructors will all tell you, whether they like to admit it or not. That is, none of them is really content where they are. Everyone likes to just rush up the ladder and everyone likes to get the best job they possibly can. When you spend four, to six, to eight years at the job and you think ‘well what's next’,” Paz said. “In the music activity, we are always asking ‘what’s next’ and ‘what can we do more’. I want to enjoy the journey that my degree will take me.”
According to Paz, the music community at Valpo is a small one, but it is full of amazing people. This sense of community is part of what encouraged him in music.
“When I got to the first day of school, I definitely had regrets. I was like ‘what am I doing’, I doubted myself a lot. I found this great friend group within the Valpo community, cheesy enough we call ourselves ‘The Circle of Fifths,’” Paz said. ``The group members are Emily Ross, Logan Albright, Sarah Brase, and Libby Tritten--we formed ourselves as a group and we decided why not put a cringy name on it cause it’s college and these are memories you are going to remember forever.”
Paz advises incoming freshmen not to be afraid to ask questions and to try not to become frustrated with the subject.
“There’s a lot of different aspects of music, music can be like anything. We say ‘music theory is like math, singing is like art and playing music together is like community.’ Music can be anything you make of it and anything you want. Just don’t get frustrated and don’t get so bogged down to where the music feels like a job more than a hobby.” Paz said.
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