Appalachian alumnus Paul White conducts Jazz workshops

Ryan Morris

When Paul White attended the university as a student from 1992-96, he never expected that his experience would lead him to hold his current job as the staff arranger for the US Army Field Band.

On Nov. 5 and 6, White revisited his alma mater with the intention of educating current jazz students and those interested in jazz through various workshops and clinics on composition and improvisation.

He was also featured alongside Jazz Ensemble I during their concert on Nov. 7. The ensemble played many of White’s compositions and arrangements during their performance.

Jazz composer and Appalachian alumnus Paul White was initially given the opportunity to speak at Appalachian by professor Todd Wright, who taught White as an undergraduate student. He was performing at a Jazz Education Network conference when Wright extended the offer to him.

“Todd Wright was in the audience and didn’t even know that I was in the band until they kept saying my name over the PA when they were announcing the soloists,” White said, “Then he recognized me and came up to me after the show. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while. It was like a small reunion.”

Since graduating from Appalachian with a degree in classical composition, White went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin as well as a doctorate. He says that his experience at Appalachian acted as a gateway toward his further education.

While jazz is now a big part of his life, it hadn’t always been that way. White was first exposed to jazz in the form of one of his greatest musical influences, John Coltrane, while attending Appalachian.

White was also was a member of the Appalachian Symphony Orchestra, the wind ensemble, Jazz Ensembles I and II, the gospel choir and the steel drum band.

His love of jazz and insatiable need for expression has allowed him many professional opportunities.

“I’ve written music for all kinds of people, national acts and local acts. There are ensembles all over the world that play some of my music. I’ve had my charts played by jazz greats like Josh Redman, Peter Erskine and Michael Brecker,” White said, “I’ve played for tons and tons of people as a side man. I got to play a small tour with Aretha Franklin. I’ve opened up for Prince, and I’ve backed up Jay Leno.”

But while White has achieved many successes throughout his career, he doesn’t think that he’ll ever “make it”. White doesn’t think of playing music with that mindset.

“If you ever get to a point where you’ve got it figured out, you should quit and move on to something else. Playing jazz is a process that takes a lifetime,” White said, “I hope to play my horn until the day that I die or until I can’t play anymore. I’ll always be learning.”

Story: CONNOR CHILDERS, Senior A&E Reporter