Until recently, walking the halls of SCC’s West Burlington campus was considered a non-event, everyone shuffling past each other from points A to B, earbuds firmly in place.
Not so any more.
Now, you just might stumble upon an impromptu concert performed by Music Club students using instruments and microphones they set up when no one was looking. And no instrument is too big; they’ve been known to wheel a piano across campus.
If you’re not on campus to experience said impromptu concerts, odds are you’ll soon stumble upon SCC’s student musicians performing at an event or venue in your community.
The leader of this sudden explosion of sound is Dr. Daniel Pappas. An accomplished musician in his own right with original music featured on Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer, and 20/20, Pappas shows a true passion for educating SCC students. And he means all students, not only those who come to the college with a musical background.
Pappas’s philosophy for the music program is in line with SCC’s mission.
“The program celebrates diversity. It’s uplifting. And in hand with that, we work to be a place of inclusivity, which I think is missing in most music programs.”
Asked to explain what he meant, Pappas mentioned that it isn’t rare to find a student in the Music Club playing an instrument they’ve never played before.
Case in point: Tony Jameson.
Jameson originally came to SCC to study nursing. He earned his CNA and quickly discovered on the job that the field wasn’t for him.
“I was lost,” he said. “I didn’t know where I was going.”
Then he noticed that choir was offered at SCC, and that changed his entire trajectory.
One day, Jameson arrived to choir with his bass, an instrument he’d brought for the college’s pep band. Daniel took notice and challenged him to learn how to play jazz bass.
“He had played jazz trombone, but never the bass,” Daniel said. “We gave him an opportunity to start learning right here. A four-year school would have required him to be proficient before ever considering him.”
Jameson graduated from SCC in 2021 and is now a jazz bass major at Western Illinois, a university with an outstanding jazz program.
Encouraging students with all music backgrounds – from no experience to strongly skilled – to try new instruments is part of the music program’s mission for inclusivity, but the focus doesn’t stop there.
Pappas and his team have carefully developed classes so students graduate with the skills needed to be employable in today’s music industry.
Jameson can be found performing professionally in the southeast Iowa region at SCC fundraising events, the Art Center of Burlington, and other locations.
He’ll also be spotted at Jazz Night at the Elliott Test Kitchen in Fort Madison.
In short, the Elliott Test Kitchen is the home of the Test Kitchen Education Foundation, a space that provides educational afterschool activities. The Test Kitchen STEM Lounge houses a music program run SCC alumnus Hailey Ramatowski.
“I would not have my career in music if I hadn’t gone to SCC.”Hailey Ramatowski
“I definitely know I wouldn’t be teaching,” she added.
The ‘21 grad credits the Pop-Up Concerts and performances that Pappas arranged on and off campus as experiences that boosted her confidence as a musician.
Which is why Pappas arranges these performances throughout the year.
“The students need these experiences, and spots on campus and at the Art Center of Burlington give us an opportunity to get in front of appreciative and encouraging audiences. These are low stakes, high reward opportunities.”
To further prepare students for a future in music, SCC recently added the Henry and Virginia Murray Digital Music Lab.
“We’re really proud of this space,” Pappas said. “Faculty from surrounding colleges come to tour the facility and they instantly recognize this as an important asset in the rapidly changing music field.”
Pappas says the emphasis on digital and jazz music is intentional because of what these two areas do for his students.
“Digital music is such a great place to enter music. Students can be creative immediately and acquire musical knowledge as they go. Then jazz is the place to be creative and think outside the box.”
He further explains that with these skills, students can go on to become classical musicians.
“We have those two elements because they are going to be the ones that get our music students on the right path the quickest and the most comprehensively. After two years, we can send them along as complete, employable musicians.”
Above all, Pappas is dedicated to continue bringing culture through music to the college campus to help all students gain exposure to different types of music and the history behind it.
He says this program is intended to offer more than lessons in music theory.
“We use music as a vehicle for broader lessons about the world around you,” he said. “We’re talking about music, but we really focus on how you, as a human being, fit into that.”