Students pursue personal love of music without the degree


    Michelle Hoey, Andrew O’Brien and Harrison Herndon have two things in common. 

    One, they have all been changed by their involvement in the vast world of music. Two, they are all non-music majors who view their musical endeavors as passions, not career choices. 

    These three students, along with many others campus-wide, are proving that it does not take a music degree to spread melodies throughout the masses.

    The Christian Singer

    The move from Rhode Island to El Paso as a child was not always a smooth transition, but a few things stayed constant throughout the process for junior Michelle Hoey: her involvement in church and her love for singing. 

    Fast-forward to college and Hoey leads worship services in churches for years and sings in Campus Crusade For Christ (CRU), a campus ministry that meets in Sid Richardson Lecture Hall 3 on Thursday nights. 

    How did this happen? It all begins with a girl, a passion for music and a “God-given gift,” Hoey said.

    "Singing has always been such a crucial part of my life. I am always singing, all the time,” Hoey said. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity or more like a privilege that I have in my life today.”

    As a psychology major and a theatre minor, Hoey has plans to be a biblical counselor and attend seminary schooling after fulfilling her undergraduate degree. But she insists that her love for singing will endure throughout her new endeavors.

    "Singing will always be a part of my life,” Hoey said. “When you hit a harmony with another person and that full blend rings true, it’s indescribable. Harmonizing is one of the main things I enjoy about music. I won’t be able to give that up.”

    Sometimes it can be difficult for Hoey to commit to the time necessary to rehearse for a CRU meeting or a worship service at McKinney Bible Church, but she knows that her busy schedule is just a byproduct of her hard work and her love for singing.

    “As long as I can use my voice to worship God, that’s all I can ask for,” Hoey said.

    The Improvisational Pianist

    “Well, here, hold on just a second,” Andrew O’Brien said as he tries to explain how he learns the music that makes up his massive piano repertoire. “Okay, well, this is a song I heard recently, and I’ll try to play it now.”

    O’Brien proceeded to crank out a near-flawless version of "Good Life" by One Republic based solely upon “hearing the song recently.”

    “I just hear it, and then I play it. Sometimes I read sheet music, but this is how I learn most of my music,” O’Brien said.

    This epitomizes Andrew O’Brien, a freshman business major from Flower Mound. A pianist since the sixth grade, O’Brien said he views the piano as more than just a hobby–it’s an instrument for his personal expression.

    “For me, there are 88 keys just sitting out there, and excuse me for being a math nerd, but I just see the infinite amount of combinations I can play," O'Brien said. "With those 88 keys, I can say so much and connect with people around me on an entirely different level."

    Most recently, O’Brien played the piano for a benefit concert that raised money for refugees, and he offers spontaneous recitals around campus based solely on Facebook invitations. 

    Needless to say, his musical activeness is not suffering at the hands of his rigorous academic schedule. If anything, O’Brien might be worried about sitting at the piano a little too often in comparison to sitting behind a desk.

    “I don’t find it difficult to keep up my music with my academics. I find it difficult to keep up my studies with my music,” O’Brien said. “I’m very active with my music, and I play a lot from Beethoven to The Beatles to 'Call Me Maybe.' I’m not sure what my future holds, but music is one thing that’s never going to change.” 

    The Driven DJ

    Less than a year ago he was fiddling around on his computer with a disc jockey program downloaded by hundreds of thousands of people. Today he is headlining at bars and clubs around campus and stretching into the downtown Fort Worth area. 

    From a “Virtual DJ” to an actual one, junior Harrison Herndon is rapidly gaining fame around the Fort Worth area, especially among TCU students.

    Herndon started disc jockeying in his room freshman year and played in his first event last January. Although some may view DJs as unnecessary, Herndon’s improvisation-based style is what sets him apart from fellow DJs.

    “You’ll see a lot of DJs who have pre-mixed their music, just come in and press play," Herndon said. "I don’t do that, and I don’t write sets. I let the crowd dictate what I’m feeling next and the next song that I will play or the loops and transitions that I will add. To a certain extent, I am live-mixing out there."

    Has there ever been a Congressman who moonlights as a DJ? Doubtful, but in the future there may very well be if all goes according to Herndon’s master career plan.

    “I am a political science major, and I want to go to law school, get an internship and eventually run for Congress in the state of Missouri,” Herndon said.

    Disc jockeying has been a way for Herndon to consistently pick up some extra cash over the last year. But for him, disc jockeying is so much more than just a part-time job.

    “Music and DJing is such a big part of my life. It makes me and other people feel better and more optimistic. My love for DJing drives me and what I do. It is my passion,” Herndon said.

    Herndon said he seems to thrive in a live atmosphere, as he points out that he feeds off the energy of the crowd. Each new event results in a new experience for Herndon, and he improves his skills every time he performs.

    “The crowd is my favorite part. Working with a live audience, a DJ really has a chance to make the crowd listen to and appreciate a song in a different way," he said. "DJing has the ability to change moods, attitudes, and atmospheres, which makes what I do so influential."

    Herndon notes that it is relatively easy for him to balance school and his disc jockeying because he takes his classes during the day and DJs late at night. The timing of the two does not overlap, although disc jockeying definitely has a certain niche and desired audience, he said. 

    “More than anything, DJs are involved in the party aspect. At parties, the DJ is often the most important person. I don’t play rap because it can be slower. I like to play house music or more of what you might call Dance or Techno," Herndon said. "That kind of music is more upbeat and has the ability to change the vibe of the scene or control whether it is a good or bad party."

    United by love of music

    Hoey. O’Brien. Herndon. A psychology major, business major and a political science major. They are three very different people, with three very different styles united by one passion for music. Throughout it all, one thing stays true: It does not take a music degree to make a musician, but personality itself to make the music.