Month of Musicianship and the role of Music in my Life.

The holiday season has begun, and the Starbucks I am at is playing Cheese Cake by Dexter Gordon.


My relationship with music goes back to the Spring of 2005. My Father was a rude and crass man; he refused to let me join band. To the point, where he tore up my letter of “acceptance” if you will, and would not let me participate. I was in fifth grade, and I had the option of choosing three instruments: French Horn, Saxophone, or Tenor Trombone. I was a very upset child, because all I wanted to do was perform on stage, expressing my musical talents. I believe now that I was confident that I knew I was talented, but when someone comes along and crushes your dream there’s only one thing you can do: keep dreaming.

In between fifth and sixth grade, my Father went to jail because of his misuse of money in his independent business. Which, by the way, was not doing well. I was shuffled to my Mother’s side of the family, and there my family was more open to the involvement in the arts. I learned how to put together and master concert F on my Aunt’s Tenor Trombone from her concert and marching band days from the  late 1950s in Oklahoma.

I recall walking into the sixth grade Trombone class in 2005, and we had twenty or so young, Trombonists. By the end of sixth grade, only about ten remained. By my Senior year in High School in 2012, we only had three. This is common throughout public education as I have learned, but I have always been shocked at all the different reasons why people leave music.

In sixth grade, I was somewhere around the middle of the group, chair wise and musicianly. Seventh grade, I was in the bottom band, and battled for first chair. I was quite proud of that accomplishment. Eighth grade (we are now into 2008), it was a competition all the time between me and my two best friends for first chair. That was one of the better years for improvement. Once I got to high school, it was kinda like an unprecedented thing occurred: I kept climbing up  the ranks and concert bands, and eventually found that by my Senior year, I didn’t really care for first chair anymore. I was just happy to be playing in the best band, and playing Toccata Marziale.

This was me my Sophomore year in High School. That was the heaviest $200 Mum (that was gifted and made for me) I have ever worn. It also had a light switch for the middle.

In Texas, marching band is the utmost importance. Multiple competitions, battle of the bands, you name it. Huntsville ISD, where I attended public school, is different than other districts than I’ve visited. As a military marching band, our half-time is more resembled to a nearby University, Texas A&M University. We hold great pride in that, for there are not many military marching bands in the state of Texas anymore.The downside of when Huntsville ISD was a 4A district (now a 5A district) is that we did not have a Orchestra. To this day, I still wish we did.

How was I able to improve so much, in so little time? Three factors:

1. Summer Band Camps: From 2009-2012, I attended multiple band camps. Oklahoma State South Western Oklahoma State camps in 2009; Sam Houston State University (Jazz), Stephen F. Austin State University, and Southwestern camps in 2010; Stephen F. Austin State University and University of Central Oklahoma (Jazz) camps in 2010; and Stephen F. Austin State University as a free ride in 2012.All of these were funded out of pocket from family or band grants. 

2. Private Lessons: I laugh at my middle school self, being intimidated by my lesson teachers. I didn’t truly take full advantage of Private Lessons until the Fall of 2008, and have used them ever since. And when you graduate high school, the price rises, and so you better rehearse and improve, not to waste your time or your teachers. 

3. Patiently Practicing. It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Thank goodness I’m a Hufflepuff. I’ve also gone through embouchure changes, and posture realigning. 

 Stephen F. Austin State University is still the best school in the State of Texas for getting your Music Education degree, in my humble opinion. Also, these are the “old uniforms” before the LMB got new ones around 2013-2014.

In 2012, I declared Music Education as my major as I began college at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Lumberjack Marching Band marches a military pre-game, and a core styled half-time. I still love looking back at the memories I have made with fellow musicians over at SFASU. At one point, I was performing in the marching band, concert band, jazz band, basketball band, Trombone Choir, and Orchestra. Before that hectic mini-semester, is also where I became a Brother of Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Fraternity. Both the Fraternity and its Brothers are here to serve College Bands and November 27th is our Founder’s Day Celebration. 


Swingin’ Axes Lead in 2012.

Personally, I prefer marching core over military. I also wish, and some people will not agree with me on this comment: I am not a fan of when educators dis those who march core, military, or Drum Corps International. Each is to its own, and as someone who has marched both, it doesn’t help but skew students on a view in Marching Band.

My last show was actually a home SFASU game in 2012. The 2013 season doesn’t entirely exist, because I was on the sidelines. My health was in jeopardy with heat,  and marching. When I was in High School, I kept passing out and going to the Hospital. I was eating and drinking healthy, yet my body was starting to fail. It wasn’t until recently have my Doctors and I learned that it isn’t Neurologist related, but Cardiologist. I’m still in the throws of doing heart and blood tests, which are not fun.
 The saddest day in my musical/marching band career was when the Doctors told me I was not  allowed to participate in marching band until further notice. I went about four months without playing my Trombone, out of sorrow. I then started continuing my knowledge of piano soon afterwards.


International Trombone Festival in Columbus, Georgia 2013. No one, except this guest, had thought of taking a video or picture of me on stage during the late night jazz sessions after the jazz competitions and concerts.  I was also the only female who went and improved. Somewhere over on the side, is Wycliffe Gordon. I may have played too long, but I was having fun.


John Mackey and I at the 2013 Kappa National Intercollegiate Band Concert. He has visited SFASU and OU during my time in school, and this is the only picture I have with him.

The four months of break was what my musical spirit needed. By the time 2014 rolled around, I was becoming more involved with my Trombone again. I started to pick up the bad habits I have (or still have). I had moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to be closer to family, as well as being near the Doctors I needed. In 2014, my transfer to the University of Oklahoma  was accepted, and my dream of being a Sooner was full circle.


Abbie Connant and I at the 2014 ITF festival at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. She had done a clinic at SFASU when I was there, and we caught up a little bit before going our separate ways.

I was able to perform with the OU University Bands and while I started in the Trombone Choir, I did not stay. As part of a service project at the Kappa Kappa Psi chapter at OU, we sent a Hockey Pep Band to a few home games.

I struggle with anxiety and depression, and it was the Spring of 2015 when I realized where I was with music: I loved performing, but to teach in the Southern states for Middle School and High School, you “had” to teach Marching Band. How could I be a successful educator when I could not be physically able to perform the job? I have also been a advocate for the arts and music education in classrooms, and currently, states are struggling with supporting there staff. Oklahoma, I’m looking right at you.



So now, Music is my minor. I love playing at festivals, in church, parties, and concerts. Spreading the joy of music is a part of me. English-Writing and German are my majors, which explains quite a lot, too. I still have more musical goals than it looks. As a Trombonist, I love going to the International Trombone Festival. I’ve attended three times, twice being a student worker. This past summer, I got to go to the Julliard School of Music in New York City, New York. I, along with 350+ Trombonists broke a world record, with Joseph Alessi conducting our Trombone Choir. You might’ve seen us on CNN, who knows. The link for that rainy event is here.


Ian Bousfield and I after a student worker Masterclass at ITF 2014 at Eastman. He complemented my Doctor Who shirt, so that’s cool. Note: I take notes during master classes and lessons, and I still have 50% of my college notes. Lots of yelling at myself, sarcastically.

 I practice about two hours every other day, for kicks and keeping up with the evolving music world. For me, I don’t always practice with my instrument; I practice with Aural skills or Music Theory. Maybe a lesson or two in composition. Can I also tell you what is still an issue in today’s musical society? Women being mocked for playing Trombone. This also applies to males playing flutes or clarinets, or women playing Trumpet or Tuba. Musicians should not be judged on what gender they are and what instrument they play.

Note: It was fun writing this, traveling down memory lane. I will be giving my Trombone a bath this week, so I can prepare for the Holiday requests at my Church. I will most likely play on Christmas Day, which is a first. If it wasn’t for my involvement in music, I personally would not feel like I have ever accomplished anything in my life. I am 23 years old, I still have many more concerts, books, and blogs to write. I am traveling home this weekend, and I’ll be able to collect the rest of my Music library, which is a nice change for what I’ve been reading at home.

If it has been one day or one year since you have performed with a band, or practiced at home, I implore you to find that creative flow again.If you are a Music Performance, Music Education, or Music Theory Undergraduate or Graduate, don’t forget the importance of breathing and relaxing in the practice room and when composing. If you are a Band Director, keep encouraging your students to succeed. I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without the Band Directors I had during high school and College. Always pushing for dedication and striving for the highest.


November is Month of Musicianship. Take the time to thank the musicians who have come before you, who are playing now, and who will impact the future. Thank you for reading my blog post about my journey and evolution with Music.

Fun fact: My cat dislikes loud & high noises.

AEA & Go Trombones,

Danielle Sullivan


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