Photo credit: Tapias Tejano Pics
College students entering the workforce are always in need of something to make their resumes pop. For University of North Texas student Duane Hargis, that item will be the Grammy Award that he won earlier this month. Hargis is a graduate student in the jazz studies program at UNT and plays trumpet in the 4 O’Clock Lab Band. On the weekends, he tours with Ruben Ramos and the Mexican Revolution, winners of this year’s Grammy for best Tejano album for Viva La Revolucion. Hargis, 29, discusses the joy of winning and the key to balancing school, touring and a family as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A.
Art&Seek: Only a handful of awards are given out during the Grammy telecast. How did you find out that your disc won?
Duane Hargis: There’s a pre-telecast portion of the Grammys. So what happens is the day of the Grammys, which was Sunday, we go and sit down amongst all the nominees and audience as well. They read the categories out loud, and there’s five people per category who get nominated. We have no idea who wins until that very moment.
A&S: So what was the first thing that ran through your mind when they announced that you had won?
D.H.: Relief. You’re following along in the program all the different bands and groups and albums that are getting nominated, and then it comes your turn for your category. I’m a pretty religious guy, and I was just praying in my mind, “Please, God, let this happen. Let us win – we really needs this right now.” And then I heard our name and my heart fell to the ground. It was a mix of excitement and joy. My wife was with me, and she was holding my hand and I could feel her hand clinching tighter. And when we won, all the guys just jumped up and started cheering. It was just incredible.
A&S: For a lot of those popular bands, I would imagine it doesn’t actually mean too much if they win or lose. But for a group like yours, it must be a huge boost in getting the word out about your album.
D.H.: It’s huge – it’s very meaningful. You’re absolutely right – for the genre of music of the album, it does a lot of things. Especially for instrument playing in general. I think we’re losing a lot of trumpet, trombone, saxophone, guitar solos. Simple stuff like that in today’s pop music – it’s all computerized now. I think it’s a good thing for the world to see that people are still making music with real instruments. Hopefully it will increase the arts programs in schools. Such a great place to begin is in band. I made so many friends and there are a lot of really good, smart kids in band. It’s just a wonderful experience, and to be able to play a musical instrument is becoming far and few now days, especially in public schools. So that’s one thing it does. Personally, for me what it does is it’s something that I will always cherish and I can definitely use this for my resume in the future.
A&S: I should think that would be on the resume from here on out.
D.H.: Yeah, and it also makes me want to strive to keep getting into situations like this and to keep playing with people who are at the top of their skill levels. It’s just a wonderful thing to be a part of.
A&S.: Outside of the obvious, was there another moment that stuck out to you as particularly memorable?
D.H.: Behind the stage after we won our Grammy I saw Terence Blanchard, who plays trumpet – one of my favorite trumpet players, an excellent jazz musician. I ran into him backstage and met him and thought that was amazing. And then to top it off, Lil Wayne announced during his performance, “And on trumpet, Mr. Terence Blanchard!” And Terence Blanchard walks out from behind the stage and starts playing this solo on a wireless microphone and the crowd just loved it. … It was a really nice thing to see. Like I said, we’re getting musical instruments back into pop culture.
A&S: So do you have a place already picked out for your trophy?
D.H.: Yeah, I might put it on my rubber hamper next to my files. [laughs] No, I don’t really have anywhere picked out – I don’t really know where to put it. … I’m still in college living in an apartment, so maybe when I get a nicer home with an office …
A&S: So once you graduate with your masters in jazz studies, do you have an idea what you would like to do?
D.H.: Yeah, I’d like to start teaching maybe at the community college level. You’ve got to start somewhere, so I’d like to start somewhere like that. Later on in life I’d like to be at a much larger university as a teacher of jazz studies and trumpet music. Hopefully in the next year, I’d also like to visit high schools and colleges as a clinician.
A&S.: It’s interesting that you are studying jazz, but the album you played on is all Tejano. How does your knowledge of one style affect your playing of the other?
D.H.: They help each other out. After being on the road playing Tejano music, it’s a different type of music, it’s a different type of style, accenting, tonguing – it’s a different approach. The basics are always the same, but really, with Tejano music, what it does for me with jazz music is give me a little more confidence with my trumpet playing, especially in front of people. If I’m ever feeling tired or fatigued, I know how to overcome these obstacles. Which is a pretty common thing in big band trumpet playing, especially at the university. Plus my improvisation – I get a lot of chances to improve in Tejano music, so it helps out with that in jazz studies. … And my knowledge of music theory of course helps with my improvisational work on the Tejano side as well.
A&S: In addition to your school work and your gig schedule, you also have a wife and two kids. How do you find the time for everything? Your schedule must be hectic.
D.H.: I have a really supportive wife – that’s really what it all boils down to. She’s helps me with the kids when I’ve got to study – she’s there for me. She graduated from college also. She’s really my backbone, and without her it wouldn’t be possible. But besides that, I just have nonstop scheduling. You get to be really good with time and not procrastinating. … We don’t get a lot of breaks, but I understand that if I work hard now, it’s going to pay off later. So hopefully if I keep doing it like this, it’ll pay off later.
A&S: It sounds to me like it’s paying off now.
D.H.: Yeah, it is. I hope it stays that way.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.