They say you can’t go back. But I just did. In a circle of my life spanning 45 years, I’ve just gone back home. Just a few weeks ago, I was appointed the trombone teacher at my undergraduate alma mater, Wheaton College (Illinois). In a big sense, I feel like I’ve come home, returning to a place that dramatically shaped me even as I now have the opportunity to shape the lives of others.
[That’s me, warming up before a concert in Wheaton College’s Edman Chapel, spring 1975. This photo appeared in the 1975 edition of Tower, Wheaton College’s annual yearbook.]
It was while I was a student at Wheaton College that I studied trombone with Edward Kleinhammer, then bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony, and started on my road to become an orchestral bass trombonist, a road that led me to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1985-2012) and many other remarkable places.
[Edward Kleinhammer and me at my last lesson with him in his studio in the Fine Arts Building, Chicago, May 1976.]
It was while I was a student at Wheaton College that I met Dr. Harold Best—then the Dean of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and author of the remarkable book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith—and began an abiding and life-changing relationship with a man who began as my advisor, became my mentor, and is now one of my closest friends.
[Dr. Harold Best and me, at his home in Idaho, 2014.]
It was while I was a student at Wheaton College where, two weeks after the most wonderful girl in the world and I got married, we set up our first home. After 44 years of marriage, I thank God that she’s still that girl.
[August 31, 1975]
It was while I was a student at Wheaton College where I memorized all of the verses to Martin Luther’s great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God (for extra credit on an exam), and since that time, I have recalled it every day of my life, especially its second verse:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle.
And it was at Wheaton College where our two daughters attended and graduated with degrees in music.
We all have hopes and dreams. One of mine, held for the last 45 years, has been that God might allow me to return to Wheaton College some day to serve on its faculty, and repay some of what that remarkable place gave to my family and me. Last month, that dream—that prayer—was answered most unexpectedly, when Dr. Michael Wilder, Dean of the Conservatory of Music and Division of Arts and Communication at Wheaton College, asked me to join Wheaton College’s faculty as its trombone teacher. It all happened so quickly, so remarkably, and after a time of prayer and consideration, I accepted.
In announcing my appointment, Dean Wilder said,
“We are delighted to welcome Douglas Yeo to the music faculty of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College. He brings an amazing life of experience as a performer, teacher, and thought leader in matters of artistry, faith, and creativity. A very few minutes with Douglas Yeo will pull any person into a whirlwind of ideas and inspiration and we are looking forward to all that he will accomplish at Wheaton College, as he invests in the lives of students, colleagues, alumni, and friends.”
I pray that I might live up to those words.
The fall 2019 semester is now half over, and my students and I are on fall break, a few days of refreshment before we head back to school for more trombone lessons, more trombone studio classes, more concerts, recitals, juries, and our ongoing exploration of music and music making.
So it is that on Tuesdays, you find me teaching lessons in room 022 of Wheaton College’s brand new (just two years old), state-of-the-art Armerding Center for Music and the Arts. It’s a teaching studio I share with four other Wheaton College faculty, a place where my students and I contend to be better stewards of the talents that God has given to us. On Fridays, I’m in the Armerding Center’s room 114, a spectacular “smart classroom” where we hold our weekly trombone studio class and engage in playing trombone ensembles and solos, listening to music, watching presentations, and much more.
[Armerding Center for the Performing Arts, Room 114.]
Next fall, Wheaton College will open a new 648 seat concert hall (this new hall is in addition to the Conservatory’s 101 seat recital hall and the 2400 seat Edman Memorial Chapel), making its music facilities second to none. My wife and I have been blessed to be able contribute to help with the construction and outfitting of these new music buildings and we’d like to encourage others who believe in the mission and work of Wheaton College to support the effort to complete the building of the Concert Hall. Click HERE to read a story about why we are helping with this and learn how you can join us and help as well.
Now, we are already beginning to make plans for the 2020-21 school year. Auditions will take place in the next several months—the deadline to apply for fall 2020 admission is January 10—and I am praying now for the group of students who will be part of the Wheaton College trombone studio next year. If you’re interested in studying trombone with me and attending an outstanding liberal arts college (which has a Conservatory of Music that has a superb undergraduate music curriculum that leads to a bachelor of arts, bachelor of music, or bachelor of music education degree; Wheaton also offers a minor in music), a college that has at its core the commitment to “Christ and His Kingdom,” a place that has high and rigorous academic standards in which students grow and learn to be good stewards of the talents God has given them, and a place that Forbes has recently named one of America’s Top Colleges, I’d like to encourage you to apply for admission. The Wheaton College Conservatory of Music website has details about everything you’d want to know about the study of music at Wheaton: a look at our facilities, biographies of all of our outstanding faculty, videos of large ensemble performances, and much more. You can also get details about how to apply to the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music by clicking HERE. The Conservatory’s mission statement stakes out our commitment to our students:
The Conservatory seeks to bring each of its students to an intellectual understanding of the theoretical, historical, and stylistic aspects of musical practice; to relate each of these to the vast literature of music; and to demand the highest level possible of technical and artistic achievement in performance, composition, and teaching. Most importantly the Conservatory seeks to undertake this task in the light of a biblical perspective which describes the making of music as an act of worship and service, calls for excellence as the norm of stewardship, and relates all of human creativity to the Creatorhood of God.
For more information about trombone study at Wheaton College, go to my bio page on the Wheaton College Conservatory website and click on the tab that says Faith and Learning. There you will find my underlying core philosophy of teaching, and the fundamentals of what it is that we work to do in Armerding Room 022 and 114, across campus, and even to the ends of the earth.
And if you are entering grades 9-12 in the fall of 2020 and are looking for an engaging, one-week long summer music program, I’d like you to know that I will be teaching at Wheaton College’s summer music camp, to be held next summer from June 21-28. This is an ideal way to explore music at Wheaton; for information, click HERE.
I’m back home again, at Wheaton College. If God leads you home there, too, I look forward to seeing you.