Percussion instructor given excellence award

Percussion instructor given excellence award

Mary McDonough

Just as students finished finals and 2018 came to a close, an email was sent out to NMU faculty announcing the 2018-19 recipients of the Excellence in Scholarship award. This accolade recognizes two faculty members who have been nominated for having excellence within the field One of those recognized was percussion instructor James Strain.

Being among such a list of people who have taken part in large projects and publications is something that Strain sees as a great surprise and privilege which may also allow people to see the amount of work that has taken place.

“If you look at the list of people and the things that they do, the entire faculty body and student at NMU they just do incredibly highly developed research and publications,” Strain said. “A lot of times I just don’t think most people are aware of that until someone gets an award.”

Music is something that has been a constant in Strain’s life from a young age, but percussion didn’t become a serious career consideration until much later. Even though Strain was involved with band since middle school, the thought of a musical career first appeared during a high school play with the Amarillo Symphony.

“You play music, they clap and yell at you then on Thursday you get a check in the mail. I thought, ‘this might actually be pretty fun. I could do this for a job,’” Strain said. “After a few weeks of majoring in music, I thought ‘this is what I wanna do.’”

It was that passion that pushed Strain to pursue a bachelor’s in music education from Arkansas State University. But it didn’t stop there–Strain went on to earn a master’s in percussion performance from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and then a doctorate in that same field from Eastman School of Music.

While working at NMU, Strain published a book entitled “A dictionary for the Modern Percussionist and Drummer.”

Aside from publishing works, Strain has also been able to present at National and International conferences including the Percussive Art Society International convention, International Trombone Association Conference and at the Music Teachers National Association Convention, something that comes as an honor to Strain with a fair amount of pressure.

“I’ve never really applied or been invited without something very, very specific I want to share with the worldwide community,” Strain said.

With over 22 years of teaching here in Marquette, Strain still has favorite moments with the music majors that come to learn about percussion and all its aspects.

“I still see that wide-eyed enthusiasm the first time they experience a piece of music I experienced at their age. It nevers gets old,” Strain said. “As a professor I get to see that over and over.”