Interview with Duane Carroll
“Music has certainly made a difference in my life,” muses Porterville native, Contra Costa Wind Symphony conductor and music director, Duane Carroll. “As a little guy, maybe six or seven years old, I used to make a nuisance of myself tagging along after my older brother to his piano lessons. I often wonder whether music would have had such an important place in my life if it hadn’t been for a beloved older brother’s influence. Of course, what I really wanted to be at that time was a forest ranger”.
But big brother Lloyd was not the only musical influence. In high school Carroll was privileged to play under Buck Schafer, who many believe was one of the most outstanding high school band directors in California in the 50’s and 60’s. In Duane’s sophomore year the energetic and innovative Schafer started up the “Fabulous Studio Band” as it was called. The music they played was from the Big Band era of the 40’s, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Les Brown. Not only did they play high school and college dances and events but one summer took a Greyhound bus tour across the United States and played one nighters at Air Force bases, shopping malls, a very elegant state Department function in Washington, DC, the pentagon, Ford Theater, Yellowstone Park, Mount Rushmore and New York City. They were a hit. “All of this was very heady stuff for a bunch of high school kids, especially the State Department function in DC – that was one gig that really sticks in my mind” he laughs. “The travel was also very educational for all of us who had probably never set foot outside of California”.
That trip did it. He was hooked. The life of a forest ranger was not for him. He ended up joining the army, playing clarinet, saxophone and oboe with the 4th Armored Division Band in Germany for two years. “Europeans in general have a high respect for musicians and I decided after returning to the states that I would earn a living doing something that, for me, is pure enjoyment. How lucky I was to find that out at an early age!”
After receiving his doctorate from the University of Michigan, “Doc”, as he was known to his students, has taught music at all levels from teaching fellow at the University of Michigan to primary grades in California’s public schools in addition to 32 years as conductor of the Contra Costa Wind Symphony. He also teaches clarinet and saxophone privately and still finds time to play in several ensembles throughout the Bay Area.
He enthuses, “Look at the travel I’ve been able to do –Scandinavia, Ireland, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the United States - the fascinating and talented musicians I’ve met – conductors, players and composers - who have been the inspiration for the modern classical music as well as standard band literature the Contra Costa Wind Symphony plays. In addition to musicians, I’ve met many wonderful and interesting people from all walks of life who just love hearing all kinds of music. They have always been inspiring. If the individuals I have known and events hadn’t occurred as they did at crucial points in my life, I might very well have become that forest ranger and look what I would have missed!”