Danny Helseth conducts during the 2018 Sacred Sounds of Christmas concert | photo by Mike Siegel

Amanda Stubbert: You are listening to a special series of the SPU Voices Podcast featuring our music faculty.

Kyle Brown: Amanda, why are we doing special podcast episodes?

Amanda: Because of Behold! A Sacred Sounds of Christmas Virtual Experience, coming to your home December 12th. It’s a fully produced Christmas special, featuring some of our most talented professional alumni musicians.

Kyle: How can I sign up for that amazing event, Amanda?

Amanda: At spu.edu/behold.

Kyle: And Amanda, who can I thank for putting on this event?

Amanda: Let’s thank all of our sponsors, especially US Bank, our presenting sponsor.

Kyle: Amanda, why is it called Behold!?

Amanda: I am so glad you asked. If you read the nativity story in the Bible, you will see the word “behold” quite a few times. Usually, it’s when an angel of the Lord comes and talks to people, and says, “Stop what you’re doing. What I’m about to tell you is going to change your life forever.” So, we asked that same question to our musicians. Tell us some of your behold moments, where God stopped you in your tracks and changed the course of history. And boy, did we get some great answers.

Kyle: I’m so excited to have beheld this event. Now behold, the SPU Voices Podcast.

Amanda: Dr. Danny Helseth directs the symphonic wind ensemble at Seattle Pacific University. He’s recognized as an exciting and spirited euphonium soloist, and has been a featured artist throughout the United States, Japan, Europe, and China. A champion of music education, Professor Helseth has presented master classes and clinics to students of all ages throughout the United States and Asia. He holds degrees from Central Washington University, the University of North Texas, Royal Northern College of Music, and he has received his doctorate from the University of Washington in 2017. Danny, thank you for joining us.

Danny Helseth: It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.

Amanda: I’m going to jump in with what I think are most of our listeners’ first question: Why did you pick the tuba, or euphonium, which I now know the difference between the two, which I will confess to you, I looked up right before this conversation.

Danny: It’s a small difference. So, the euphonium is essentially the tenor member of the tuba family. And I picked that instrument going into sixth grade band. It’s kind of an interesting story behind that. I started taking lessons from the organist at my dad’s church in Oklahoma City, when I was 4 years old. I learned a lot about music and about how to read the treble clef. But this organist had an interesting style of teaching piano, where I didn’t learn to read bass clef, but she would just write chord changes above the notes.

And so, essentially, it was like reading a jazz chart. I would have a melody and different chords, and I would just count chords in my left hand and play the melody in my right hand. And I did that for five or six years of piano lessons.

When it came time to choosing an instrument for band, I realized, in my brilliance as a fifth grader, I didn’t know how to read the bass clef, but I wanted to. So, I wanted to pick an instrument to play in the bass clef. My dad mentioned that he used to play the baritone in marching band in high school, and that was in bass clef, and I was sold. I was like, “Cool, I’ll play that.”

I had no idea what I was getting into. I showed up for the first day of band and literally they hand this instrument to me. I was like, “What is this?” They’re like, “That’s the baritone. That’s what you picked.” I’m like, “Oh, OK. That’s cool.” And that was pretty much it. It was just this weird, backward, backing my way into playing the euphonium.

“I showed up for the first day of band and literally they hand this instrument to me. I was like, ‘What is this?’ They’re like, ‘That’s the baritone. That’s what you picked.'”

People ask the question, “How did you, or why did you, pick this instrument?” My answer is, oftentimes, tongue in cheek. The instrument chose me, very much like going to Hogwarts and they put the hat on. Did you get to go to this school? That sounds good. And it’s been the perfect fit. I’ve played other instruments, the trombone. I play a lot of trombone. I play a lot of tuba. But every time I get back to the euphonium, it’s like coming home. And it feels good. It feels right to be playing that instrument. So it’s kind of [crosstalk 00:04:10]

Amanda: I think there’s a lot of musicians that have that similar “I fell into it” story. Not that I would classify myself as a musician, but I did play the drums for about 10 years. And I picked the drums because the saxophone had too many keys. It’s that simple.

Danny: It’s interesting how those choices early in life can make such profound differences later on. I would not choose another instrument, knowing what I know now. I would still go with the euphonium.

Amanda: So we have this background of playing music in church, like so many musicians. That’s how they got their start. But not quite as many move onto the United States Air Force Band. How did did that journey happen for you?

Danny: My undergraduate career, I started in music in college at Central Washington, as a music education major. And quickly discovered that I love performing. I love being on stage, I love playing solos, I love being in the performing groups.

And I had asked my professor, Larry Gugan, who was teaching private lessons to me at the time. I’m like, “Is there anything that I can do with this?” And he’s like, “Well, I mean, they do have bands in the military that you could join and be a full-time musician in the military.”

And I was kind of blown away. I come from a pretty small school in Yakima, where they didn’t have much of that. I was like, “Really? Professional musician as a euphonium player?” He’s like, “I mean, well, yeah. It’s a thing.” And so I was like, “That’s what I want to do.”

So it was my sophomore year in college. I made the decision that I was going to do whatever I needed to, to at least be competitive to get into one of those jobs. And it is a competitive career for real, because there are not many professional euphonium-playing jobs anywhere, let alone in the United States.

And so, from that point forward, it really did direct all of my decisions, what I did with friends on the weekend, what time I went to bed, what my social schedule was like. Everything was rotating and specifically focused on spending time in the practice room, listening to the music that was going to get me prepared. And so the choice to go to North Texas for grad school was right in line with that.

And then, when I applied for the Fulbright scholarship and I got it, it was because I was going to go study euphonium intensely in England, which is the mecca of euphonium. And then, ultimately, I got done with the degree program in England, and I had auditioned for the Marine Band in summer of 2002, June, and didn’t make it very far in the audition process. There were 112 of us auditioning for that position and only one person wins.

“There were 112 of us auditioning for that position and only one person wins.”

And so, I came home, and a friend called and said that the Air Force Band in D.C. had an opening, that I should try out for the euphonium. I called the audition line, because this is before email was really too big of a thing, and told him my background. He was like, “Yeah, it sounds like you’re qualified to come and audition.”

They faxed me the music, and I flew out, and ended up winning the job in the Air Force Band. And so, unlike a lot of people who join the military, they joined a specific branch because they had family that served in that branch before them, or for different reasons, they joined the Air Force over the Navy, or the Army or whatever.

And for me, it was literally, I wanted the job with the Air Force. And so, I got into that branch, and it was a great move. It was like I spent 10 years of my life, essentially, working toward this gig, and I got it. And it was amazing. And then, after a couple of years, I realized that living in Washington, D.C., and playing in that band full time, was not the right choice for me. So, I got out, but I would not turn that experience down for anything. It was amazing.

Amanda: Well, before we move on from there, you’ve told me some stories about playing at the White House, playing in the Rose Garden. Some of these places that we see on TV, or perhaps visit as a tourist from far away, what are some of your favorite memories of that, of performing in those places?

Danny: So, when I was a member of the Ceremonial Brass with the Air Force, we did quite a few, I guess we call it services, at the White House. And one of them was in the spring and in the fall, every year, they open up the backyard, essentially, of the White House, for people to come in and wander around the Rose Garden, and just kind of do a self-guided tour.

And throughout the day, different members of the various bands in D.C., so the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, sent small groups to go perform on the porch, essentially, of the White House, playing to everybody who’s out there giving themselves a tour of the grounds. It’s really cool. The weather, at this time of year, is great in D.C. Spring and fall are beautiful times to be there.

And so, the first time I did that, I was with the quintet, and we had arrived early. We got all set up and we were playing a gig. And as we were finishing up, we were packing up, our handler, that was a person in charge of us at the White House, asked us if we had any place to be right away. It’s like, “Well, no.” It was actually a Sunday afternoon. It’s like, “No, I’m just going to go home.” He was like, “Well, if you want, stay in the East Wing, but go ahead and give yourself a little tour of the White House.”

And they literally just cut us loose in the White House to go wander around, up and down the stairs in the East Wing. We didn’t get to go in the West Wing, but the East Wing, got to go down to the map room where the fireside chats happened and pull the books off the shelves. It was a really cool time to just wander around the White House, unescorted. It was surreal, as I think about it now. It’s like, I can’t believe that that even happened. And that was post-9/11. That would have been fall of 2004, I think, was the year that I did that. And it was crazy when you stop and think, it’s like, “I’m just hanging out in the White House. No big deal.”

Amanda: Did you all pick the West Wing characters to be, and act out some of those walking and talking scenes, as you walked through the halls?

Danny: No, because it was too surreal. It’s like, “Are they really letting us do this? Can I just walk around?”

Amanda: “Any minute now, they’re going to stop us.”

Danny: Right? “Can I just walk into this room and go spin the globe? Yeah, I guess I can. Cool.”

Amanda: Well, that sounds like some pretty great experiences, but I also know part of that duty was also playing in Arlington Cemetery. Can you talk about some of those memories?

Danny: So, I had two different positions in the Air Force Band, the four years that I was there. I spent three years in the concert band, which primarily did, by the nature of the names, concerts. And we would go on the big tours in the spring and the fall, and tour the country, which was great. But I was searching for something with a little more meaning, a little more depth to it than just concerts.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there was something missing in my life at that time. And I felt as if maybe serving more with music, other than just concerts, was going to be a way for me to find my balance. And so I moved over. I made the choice and volunteered to move from the concert band, which is generally seen as the hot gig, over to the ceremonial brass, which is a really, really important job because 90% of what the ceremonial brass perform at are full- honor funerals at Arlington Cemetery.

“I felt as if maybe serving more with music, other than just concerts, was going to be a way for me to find my balance.”

So, without getting into too many legalistic details about everything, Ceremonial Brass would perform up to four full-honor funerals a day, five days a week. And that’s with a full band and an honor guard procession, and casket on a horse-drawn case on, and the whole thing. And we would play hymns and marches throughout the cemetery, as we would move from one place to the plot where the body would finally be laid to rest.

And it gets a little bit, tedious is not the right word, but hard, to do funerals that often. I mean, my whole gig for just over a year was performing at funerals for the most part. So, generally, they would put the band and the honor guard far enough away from where the service [inaudible 00:12:23] was actually happening, that we couldn’t hear anything. And that was, A, so that we weren’t encroaching in on the family, but also, B, to give us in the performing groups, a little bit of separation. Because emotionally, it can be quite taxing.

The few times we did end up close enough to where we could literally interact with the family, those were really, really hard gigs. Those services were tough because we could hear what was being said by the clergy and the chaplain. And we go through that whole process, and it’s harder to remove yourself emotionally from a situation when you were that close. So, generally they would, they would put us far away.

The thing that drove it home from me, there were four of us that were in this Ceremonial Brass, two trombone players, a tuba player, and myself, that decided to go in on a house together in Silver Spring, Maryland. We found this place, and man, it was, in many ways, a dream come true. It was a four bedroom, there were three bathrooms. It was a swimming pool, a big backyard, in this almost gated community. And this house was for rent. And the four of us pooling all of our money together could afford to rent this place.

And it was one of these kinds of places that, there was a lot of space. There was a lot of yard between the houses, but the community was pretty tight. And we got invited over as the new kids on the block, so to speak, to an afternoon hang at somebody’s house. Friday afternoon, they were having a gathering.

So, we went over there as the new guys, and they were kind of checking us out to see if we were going to be trouble, but we were also talking with people. We started talking with this one elderly woman who lived in the neighborhood there, and she asked what we do. And it’s like, “Oh, we’re in the Air Force.” She’s like, “Oh, my husband was retired Air Force.” I’m like, “Oh, no kidding.” She’s like, “Yeah, we just put him in Arlington Cemetery a couple of weeks ago.”

And all four of us were talking to this woman, when we stopped. And it’s like, “When? What day?” And she told us it was a Friday, and it’s like, “What time was your service?” And she said, “It was a one o’clock service.” All four of us happened to be in the band for her husband’s full-honors funeral. And when we told her that we were there, the immediate combination of joy and almost sorrow and thanks. She couldn’t say thank you enough, and how much it meant to her.

It sent all four of us back to the house with this real feeling that we were doing something incredibly meaningful and powerful for people. It’s easy to lose that when you do it day in and day out, week after week, and year after year. But to know the power of music that had played in that situation, and what it did for her. That was the only time that I’d met anybody that we had actually performed for in that sense. That interaction with her, I will hold onto for the rest of my life because it really did just, it magnified how important music is in situations like that.

Amanda: Yeah, I think we can all think of moments, whether they are deep sorrow moments or great joy moments, when there’s music attached to those things. That music will forever bring us back to those moments.

Danny: Totally.

Amanda: And what a blessing really to, at heart, be a part of all those moments.

Danny: Like I said, it’s easy to become numb to it when you do a nine o’clock, and then you get back on the bus and you’ve got 45 minutes, and then you do 11 o’clock. Then you go grab lunch at Burger King, and then you have a one o’clock, and then you have a three o’clock, and then you go home. Then the next day, you do the same thing. It becomes a grind.

And then, every once in a while, you have that experience, when you interact with somebody that was there, and you realize that it’s not a grind. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that these families have had, and the tremendous amount of comfort that we’ve given them through music and showing the honors in that sense. It helped to bring home why we do that.

Amanda: Yeah. I think every professional performer that I know, you have to hold onto that. Because it does sometimes become a grind to you.

Danny: Absolutely.

Amanda: What gets you through is knowing that, “But this is the only time this particular audience will see this.” And you don’t know what they’re going through until, like you said, you have those little moments where you find out. And if you know this one, then you know that there’s many, many other experiences behind that. Yeah.

Well, let’s transition into teaching, because I know you have taught not just college, but you have taught many ages, and, really, in many countries all over the world. So, when you approach a class of musicians and you have this wealth of travel and experience behind you, how do you step into that educational experience? How do you start with a new class?

Danny: Well, there’s a lot of different ways that can happen. I try to, as best as possible, work with the students that show up in front of me, rather than have any kind of preconceived idea of what I’m getting into. Around the world, music is music, and it’s a language. And, so cliche to even say it this way, but it’s a language that moves beyond spoken words, but I’ve experienced it in a couple of cases where that’s absolutely true.

We were in Japan. I was in Osaka and one of the things that, this is with the University of Washington. We went to Osaka on a tour. They decided for some reason that it would be good just to have everybody mingle together, the Japanese bands and the American band, and just let them hang for an hour in between things that were happening, which was always this weird thing because a lot of them didn’t speak a lot of English, or didn’t feel comfortable trying to speak English to us. And none of us really spoke any Japanese.

We had a couple of Japanese students in the band, and they became like the interpreters for everyone, but it was interesting how, about 15 minutes into those uncomfortable, awkward hangs, we would find music as the language that would actually allow us to communicate. And sometimes it would be, we would just start playing a lick of some kind, and then they would play it back. And then we would add things and almost create our own ensemble pieces on the spot.

“We would find music as the language that would actually allow us to communicate.”

Or in Osaka, there was a time where somebody had come to me. I do a lot of breathing. As a tuba player, we have to use a lot of air. And so, a big part of my teaching has been really working with students of all levels on how to more readily use the air that’s available to you. And so, somebody comes, “I think I want to do some breathing exercises, Danny.” It’s like, “OK, so we’re going to come in here.”

And there’s a lot of demonstrations of things. So, when I approach a brand new group of students that I don’t know, a lot of times, what I’ll do is, before I do anything else, I’ll play my horn. I’ll play a tune. A lot of times it’s “Oh, Danny Boy,” because it’s kind of funny. My name is Danny, and I’m going to play my song, or something else.

Generally, it’s nothing that’s too technical. It’s usually something that’s really pretty, because the euphonium comes from the Greek word that means “good and well sounding.” So, I play a pretty song or I play a tune of some kind. And then I just ask the question, “What did you hear? What did you experience right there? What did you think?” And then kind of let it flow naturally from what their experiences were in my playing, and how I can help them with that.

So, a lot of times, it’s just as simple as, “I’m going to play a tune, then we’ll talk about what I did, and we can talk about what you can do to be better that way.” And that’s been, probably, the most successful teaching experiences that I’ve had in those situations, is where I don’t try to impart a lot of wisdom with words because I stumble over my words more often than not.

But where words end, music begins. Right? And get back to the cliche. But it’s totally true with my teaching. I can show you through sound what we want to do, and then I can use words to help you figure out how I did it. But when you start with music, when you’re teaching music, for me, it’s the best start. It’s just let me play a song for you.

Amanda: Well, I wish you could play a song for us now. Maybe we’ll do that before we get to the end here, but I want to go back to what you said at the beginning of your explanation there, that you just said doing the best you can with the breath you’ve been given, with the air you have in front of you, the air you have to breathe. And I just immediately thought, “Oh, that’ll preach.”

Again, not to get cliche, but this idea, looking at your own life journey, from church to the military, to higher education and a lot of places in between, really just saying, “What is the most air I can breathe in right now, that’s going to stretch my lungs and make me a better person for whatever God has for me next.” I really enjoyed that analogy. And what has that faith journey been for you as you experienced these very different cultures throughout your life and career?

Danny: This is, I feel like my journey to SPU with the euphonium and with music has been exactly what you’re saying. I’m just going to take a breath, and trust that God has provided me with the wisdom and the ability to either do the thing that’s in front of me or figure out how to do it. And what I mean by that is, if you think back to what we talked about earlier, I was focused on getting a job in the Air Force Band or one of the bands in D.C. on the euphonium. I was practicing all the time, but I also did other things. I played trombone. I played in jazz bands. I played some tuba.

And so, when I did my master’s degree, I wanted to keep up some of that. So, I started taking trombone lessons with one of the graduate assistants. And at the end of the first semester, he was like, “You’ve got to become a major on trombone. I can’t teach you anything.” And so I auditioned to get into the trombone department as a music major, as a trombone major, and I was accepted. So, I officially double majored in trombone and euphonium performance at North Texas for my master’s.

“I’m just going to take a breath, and trust that God has provided me with the wisdom and the ability to either do the thing that’s in front of me or figure out how to do it.”

And my second year of the master’s degree was that point where things got really super stressful. I was preparing for my recital in spring semester. I was taking a really hard theory course spring semester. We had some really big recording projects with the North Texas Wind Symphony that were going on all at the same time. I was gigging a lot on the trombone in Dallas, on the weekends. I was playing church gigs almost every weekend, having a lot of success on trombone. I was feeling a little bit frustrated by euphonium.

And I’d come to the decision that, at the end of my master’s degree, euphonium was probably done. I was going to focus on the trombone. That seemed to be the way going forward from me. I should also mention that I had applied for the Fulbright scholarship to England, and I got a letter in the mail saying that I was an alternate. I didn’t get the scholarship, but I was an alternate for the scholarship.

And I remember ceremoniously grabbing everything in my desk about Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester, and the Fulbright, and ceremoniously throwing it in the dumpster outside of my apartment. This is a visceral moment that I will always remember. Just like, “They don’t want me, I don’t want them. Blah.” Right?

And so, a month later, I got notice that I was accepted into an international euphonium competition. And my instructor, down at North Texas on euphonium, was like, “Well, maybe this would be a good swan song for you to move out of euphonium and then exiting into [inaudible 00:24:58] competition.” Yeah, let’s focus on this competition. Let’s do this.”

So, I was focusing on euphonium a lot that summer, to get ready for this competition, which was in August. I was part of the summer program of the band at North Texas. And we were on the bus going to San Antonio for the Texas Masters Association concert that we were playing. I got a phone call on my cell phone, and I wandered back to the bathroom so I can go a little more quietly. I opened up the phone. It was like, “Is this Danny? Are you still interested in the Fulbright scholarship?” I’m like, “Well, yeah, sure. I’m interested.” It’s like, “Well, congratulations. We found extra money. You’re now a Fulbright scholar.”

Amanda: Wow.

Danny: I’m like, “Okay. So I guess I got another year of euphonium to go here, which is cool.” That was the end of July and I was supposed to fly out there the first of September. So, scramble because I didn’t have a passport at that point. I hadn’t been accepted or have a place to live in Manchester, because I had thrown everything out. And so, we had to scramble like mad to get all the ducks in order and they all lined up.

And September 11th, 2001, I’m driving to the airport when September 11th happened, and took a couple of weeks to get me to England. I got to England and the first thing I did, once I got into the school, was to rent a trombone. And I started a jazz trombone quintet. I played in the orchestra. I played in two jazz bands. I was in a brass quintet, and I gigged on trombone in Manchester.

Because the plan was still, it was a one-year addition to the euphonium studies. It’d be a nice feather in my cap, was going to be a great time, but trombone’s going to be the thing. As I’m playing, the Marine band audition came up, and like, “Okay, fine.” I take the Marine band audition, fail miserably. Didn’t even get out of the first round.

At the same time, I’d been accepted into two international euphonium competitions. The first one, I didn’t make it out of the first round. The second one, I didn’t make it out of the first round. Obviously, euphonium is not the thing from me. I’m going to be a trombone player, end of the story.

And that’s when I get this call from my friend who says, “Hey, the Air Force Band has an audition that’s open.” I literally got the music two and a half weeks before the audition. Got a cheap ticket, somehow, from Dallas to Washington, D.C.

And then I win this job on euphonium. “OK. God, I think you’re talking to me. I’m going to play the euphonium. I get it. OK. It’s cool. I’ll do this. You don’t have to tell them anymore.” So, I do that, but like I said, it didn’t really fit, didn’t feel right.

So, at the end of my four-year enlistment, I got out and I moved to Seattle, and I kind of wandered for a little bit, trying to figure out what my path was going to be. Tim Salzman at the University of Washington called me and said, “Hey, you should come and be a doctoral student.” It’s like, “I don’t even know what I would do a doctorate in.” And he’s like, “Do it in trombone.” I’m like, “Okay, I’ll do it on trombone.”

By the way, it’s the worst idea in the world to start a doctoral program just because you’re bored. Not a great way to start the whole thing. But that’s what I did and had tremendous experiences. I had that tour in Japan that I mentioned. We toured in China, and I was a soloist on the China tour, as well. Every year that I was at school at UW, I was standing in front of the band, playing solos. Some really cool experiences and lifelong friends.

“Every year that I was at school at UW, I was standing in front of the band, playing solos. Some really cool experiences and lifelong friends.”

I got a call from Brian Chin [at SPU]. He wasn’t the department chair then. In fact, he wasn’t even tenured back then, and said, “Hey, there’s a trombone position open here at Seattle Pacific. You should apply.” It’s like, “OK. Yeah, that makes sense.” Not far away. I’m a trombone player. I applied. I didn’t get the job.

The following spring, Brian Chin calls again. “Hey, band director position’s open. You want to apply?” Like, I’m not a band director. The closest I want to be to a conductor’s podium is standing next to it as a soloist, but sure. I’ll put in for it. What the heck?

Again, maybe not the smartest of reasons, but it was an opportunity that was given to me, and I put in for it. And after what seemed like a very long, arduous application process and interviews and conducting things, and working with, it was Carlene Brown, who was our department chair at the time.

They offered me the job and I accepted it without any real band-directing experience. Very little. And again, I took a breath. It’s like, “All right, God. This seems like it’s the right move. This seems like the right place to be. I don’t know why. It’s not a part of my plan. This is not what I intend to do with my life to be a band director. I don’t really want to be a band director.”

But when I sat with it and I just calmed the mental chatter, it seemed like this was the right position. And it seemed like it was the right thing. And so, when I say, “You’ve got to trust God to have either given you all the abilities or given you a way to find the way through,” that’s what I mean. I was not trained to be a college band director. I was not trained to do that. My training is in much different areas, but God has given me the ability to find those things.

And it’s been a great journey. I mean, I’m year eight here, and I wouldn’t turn this down for anything. I love doing this. I love working with these students. I love everything that we do here. And so, it’s been an amazing journey on that. But I mean, if you would’ve asked me, when I got out of the Air Force Band in 2007, “You’re want to be a college band director?” I would have laughed. No way am I going to be a college band director. No chance. That wasn’t even on the radar. But it was not my radar that I should have been paying attention to.

Amanda: Well, and how often is God preparing us for something that we don’t realize that’s the end goal, right? I mean, what do the students need to learn the most? Musicianship and discipline. Well, pretty sure you’ve got those under your belt, it’s amazing how often God has one plan in mind when we’re grasping at many other things and don’t really see it yet.

Danny: No, definitely. It’s been my path time and time again. It’s just like, “All right, here we go. This is not at all what I thought I was going to do, but I’ve got faith that this is where I need to be, and this is where I’ve needed to be.”

Amanda: Well, I’m certainly glad that you’ve been here with us for eight years and I hope you have a lot more years to come. It is so fun to watch you with the students, like when we’re doing the Sacred Sounds concerts, generally. This year, it will be online, as a completely different Christmas special, but in previous years, working with the students on stage, it is just so fun to see the energy and the discipline that you bring to that role.

Danny: I love working with this age group, over any of the other. I don’t have a lot of experience teaching like high school band or anything like that. I’ve done a few things I substitute taught for a while, which is an entirely different thing. But I love this age group and we’ve struck a good balance of having a great time, but also then being able to dial in and get serious when we need to. And that’s been a lot of fun, to watch that grow and mature over time.

Amanda: We like to end each of our interviews with the same question. From your own unique perspective, if everyone in Seattle could wake up tomorrow and do one thing differently that would make the world a better place, what would you have us all do?

Danny: I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but when you sent me the questions ahead of time, that one gave me real pause. I think that what I would love people, myself included, to do is to really take a moment to take a breath and pause, and either just experience more fully the things around them, or if we’re in a stressful situation, use that as a moment to recenter and listen to God’s voice.

It is in that breath that clairvoyance comes. It is in that breath that peace comes. It is in that breath that understanding and compassion comes. And so, I would love for people to have that gift of just being able to, “All right, let’s have a conversation.” That’s what I would love for people to be able to do.

Amanda: Well, thank you. I’m going to breathe, and I’m going to be thinking about you and your story while I do it. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Danny: Thanks, Amanda. I really appreciate you having me on. This was fun.

Amanda: Let’s end our time together with a prayer of blessing. May the Lord bless you and all you put your hand to. May the Lord be gracious to you and all who hear your story. May He bring unity to our community and peace to us all. Amen.


Related articles

How much do you know about SPU? Winter 2021

Gabrielle Turner
“The Song in My Heart,” with Gabrielle Turner

Three Generations of Noel
“Three Generations of Noel,” with Nathan Hedman ’95, Esther Williamson ’98, and Philip Jacobs ’08

“A Global Feast,” with SPU’s Multiethnic Community