December 27, 2021
Faculty Spotlight: LaRon Land
Please give us some background on yourself and your experience.
I am a saxophonist and educator from Houston, TX, inspired by the illustrious Texas tenor saxophone tradition of skillful players such as Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, and Wilton Felder. Early involvement in school jazz ensembles and summer programs eventually led me to study with the legendary saxophonist and educator Conrad Johnson. Studying with Johnson deepened my interest in jazz and led me to pursue music as a career. Attending Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Houston’s world-renowned magnet high school, placed me in the best environment to further my craft as a young musician. I attended Howard University, where I received my bachelor’s degree in music education with a minor in jazz studies. Later, I also acquired a master’s degree in jazz performance from Queens College under the tutelages of professors Michael Mossman and Antonio Hart. For the last 10 years, I have worked as a saxophonist for blues band Bobby Kyle and The Administers. I am also a music producer for advertising and mainstream airplay.
I honestly feel like the profession of being an educator was somehow part of my DNA. My mother, my aunts (who raised my mother), and my great-grandfather were all educators. There aren’t many feelings of joy that are comparable to seeing students engage, learn, progress, and have fun. In high school, my mother suggested that I get a degree in music education which, then in my brash shortsightedness, I thought I would never actually do. I’m happy to say I took my mother’s sage advice, and I would not change it for the world.
What brought you to GCS?
My family and I were planning to move to the area, and I was interested in seeking a music position within a private high school. I taught music within the public sector for 14 years and was looking for a change. I found GCS and was contacted by Eline Reis. I visited the campus, and I fell in love with the community.
What is one of the most rewarding moments as a teacher?
This is a tricky question to answer because there are so many moments. But, seeing students continue with music after they graduate is probably one of the most rewarding things for me.
How has the pandemic changed your approach to teaching? Any advantages?
The pandemic has dramatically affected how I and others have managed and altered the previously used methods in the classroom. The word “ensemble” is of French origin meaning “all the parts of a thing considered together.” Unfortunately, online bands cannot technologically play together simultaneously at this moment. When we weren’t in person, teaching sheet music parts and understanding ensemble dynamics took a lot longer and required everyone to exercise patience. However, we learned and presented a collaborative piece using a digital audio workstation. This was a first for our ensemble, and it came off beautifully!
What advice do you have for students learning in a pandemic?
I mentioned that patience is essential in a situation such as this. Learning in a pandemic takes more time, more independent practice, and more autonomy upon each student. It requires students to prepare and organize themselves better to engage and interact within the constraints of this pandemic. I encourage students to “stay the course!” While this can be a frustrating experience for all, it is important to remember that having a positive mental attitude and presenting your best work still goes a long way.