Senior plans to build university’s jazz program

While other students graduating in May plan to leave the university for employment, one student plans to leave his mark on campus.

For the next two years, Plano native Mike Korson will put his music education degree to the test as he assumes the role of jazz graduate assistant next fall while seeking a graduate degree in saxophone performance. In addition to being a graduate assistant, he will teach jazz improvisation twice a week at Paschal High School next year.

Korson’s interest in music started at a young age.

He began playing music in second grade, and piano was his first choice. When middle school rolled around, he said a different musical instrument caught his eye.

“Sometime in middle school is when I realized I wanted to keep music in my life forever,” Korson said. “I really wanted to play the saxophone and really wanted to be very good; I didn’t care that the director told me it would be hard.”

In his freshman year of high school, Korson said he was confident he would breeze through high school competitions but realized the challenge it would be when he did not make regionals his first year. His sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, he placed on the regional and state levels for saxophone.

The university quickly became Korson’s home when he began playing in the TCU Jazz Band and the Wind Symphony. He also formed a jazz combo that has played at Red Cactus since his first year on campus.

However, the university was not at the top of his list for graduate school, he said.

“I was concerned that if I stayed at TCU, I would not become the jazz player that I wanted to become,” Korson said.

Joseph Eckert, director of jazz studies, was the primary reason Korson chose the university in the end, he said.

“Professor Eckert promised me we would work very hard to get me to where I wanted to be; he persuaded me to stay at TCU,” he said.

Eckert said Korson’s hard work qualified him for the assistant position.

“Mike was my top candidate this year. He had other opportunities and chose to stay at TCU,” Eckert said.

Korson said his responsibilities as graduate assistant would include recruiting potential jazz students to become involved in the various jazz bands and activities on and off campus.

He said he planned numerous recruiting techniques, such as attending the band summer programs and encouraging people to get involved early.

He said his primary goal next semester would be to change the way the graduate assistant operated in the jazz program. He said he was willing to become more involved and even wanted to create a large saxophone choir like other major universities had.

Eckert said he had tasks lined up for Korson.

“I’ll be depending on Mike to again run saxophone section rehearsals, take care of administrative duties and assist in our annual jazz festival, which brings over 600 musicians to campus,” Eckert said.

The university currently has two jazz bands, and Korson said that was due to low numbers of students in the department. He said he was hopeful that numbers would be higher and that he could create and direct a third jazz band on campus.

Next March, Korson has planned a tentative saxophone symposium. He said he hoped the newly formed large saxophone choir could perform at the symposium, he said. He created a Facebook page, titled “TCU Saxophone Project” to help spread awareness of the event and gain support.

Korson has a long-term goal of becoming a full time collegiate professor of saxophone and music. After his two-year commitment for the graduate assistantship, he said the next step would be pursuing his doctorate.

This summer, Korson will put his daily six hours of practice to the test as he prepares to compete in his first international competition in Columbus, Ohio. Although Korson has never competed in such a large competition, he said competing against top-level graduate students in the nation when he was applying to schools helped.

Music has led Korson to share his love and passion for music with everyone in the community.

“I want people to have the same feelings I have about music,” Korson said. “It has been a part of me for so long and brought me to where I am, and I could not be in a happier place.”