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Dr. Larry Grandy

Written by: Dominic Mallari

Shortly before 10:00am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I walk into Room 802 for another entertaining session of History of Jazz and Rock (MUS 11) that is taught exclusively by the zealous Dr. Larry Grandy.

MUS 11 is a 3-unit class that, as stated in the course description, “covers the characteristics of jazz forms, including ragtime, dixieland, blues, swing, progressive jazz and rock… and provides an understanding of the social and technical influences that cause stylistic change.”

As the 100-ish students file into the lecture hall, music plays from the four speakers lining the walls. It’s a different song every day, but one thing is certain: Dr. Grandy has great taste in music. Quoting the prolific jazz musician Duke Ellington, he says, “‘There are two kinds of music: good and bad. And I like to listen to the good kind.”

Of course he would, and he should, since he has shared his talents with multitudes of people as the director of symphonic and jazz bands and the teacher of musical studies here at Shasta College for many years. Born in San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Grandy was raised by a family that loved music, and he participated in many school music programs as early as the fourth grade. He was also an avid saxophone player.

When asked how he became interested in teaching music, he replied, “something was pushing me towards music… I feel there were certain doors that opened, certain nudges to go in the direction. When I graduated from high school, I started college as a freshman music education major and I never changed, so I just think I was really meant to go into this profession.”

Dr. Grandy got his AA in Music at Diablo Valley College in the Bay Area, so he knows what going through a community college is like for students here at Shasta. Later he received his Bachelor of Art and Master’s of Art degrees in Music Education at CSU Chico, as well as his Doctorate in Instrumental Music from Arizona State University, where he was awarded the Arizona Regents Scholarship. He also holds a California State Single-Subject K-12 Teaching Credential for Music, and is a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators, Music Association of California Community Colleges, and the California Music Educators Association. In 1975, Dr. Grandy returned to CSU Chico as the conductor of the Concert Band, and in 1978, began teaching at Shasta College. He says of this move, “I wanted to teach students and conduct ensembles, and so community college was a perfect fit because of its primary focus of teaching.”

In 1993, he became the first teacher at Shasta College to receive the Senior Fullbright Professor Award by the United States government, which sent him to the University of West Indies in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for a year. There he taught History of Jazz and Rock, Jazz Music Theory, and Advanced Traditional Music Theory, and regularly conducted the Royal Trinidad and Tobago Police Band. Later, the United States Information Agency sent him to Barbados where he taught more History of Jazz and Rock and conducted the Royal Barbados Police Band, Barbados Defense Force Band, Barbados Symphonia, and the Barbados Youth Orchestra. Of his time in the Caribbean, Dr. Grandy says, “I feel that was a big accomplishment and it’s a real big honor and privilege to have so many students [and] to have the opportunity to impact so many people.”

Now, along with three sections of MUS 11, he also conducts the Jazz Ensemble (MUS 33), the Shasta College Symphonic Band (MUS 46), the Shasta College Jazz Ensemble (MUS 47), the Symphonic Band for Seniors (MUS 302), and Music for Seniors (MUS 303), giving him over 700 students in all. Dr. Grandy even fosters musical events on campus by assigning his music history students to attend at least any two concerts of any of Shasta College’s bands or choirs, and to write their own critique of the performance.

Dr. Grandy’s enthusiasm is evident in both the classroom and the rehearsal room. He has a hilarious sense of humor and a energetic timbre that engages his students.
“My favorite thing about teaching is the students. And my most frustrating thing about teaching: the students,” he chuckles, “because it’s great teaching the students but it’s frustrating also when they don’t fulfill their responsibilities, so it’s a double-edged sword. But the best thing about teaching is exciting students to the subject matter and… exciting the audience and having the musicians get really excited and enjoy the performing. So it’s really a community type of event being in music− you’re reaching the entire community.”

Dr. Grandy believes that in our society, to be educated requires a little bit of everything. Every subject is equally important: language, math, science, the arts, etc. An advocate of the concept of general studies, he doesn’t believe anyone can be fully educated without exposure to all the important topics: “I feel someone who has not been exposed to the arts has not had the type of experiences that they should have to make a complete individual. Just like a musician needs to take some science and needs to take some math… to be fully educated you need a little bit of everything, and in our society there are some people who think of the arts as peripheral or secondary… but I totally disagree with that. It’s an integral part of the human existence, and everyone needs to have direct experience within the arts.” Dr. Grandy’s class, History of Jazz and Rock, is often a popular choice among students because it fulfills the Arts requirement of the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC), and you don’t need to be a Music major to take it.

Along with his flamboyant personality, tendency to bring up interesting musical trivia guaranteed to not be on the next test, and well-maintained nineteenth-century sideburns, Dr. Grandy is also noted for his dazzling array of ties. “I’ve collected them over the years, and sometimes I get students who give me ties.” He has always worn a formal shirt and tie during his lectures because he feels that it is the kind of uniform that sets off any professional type of venue. Yet he always wears running shoes instead of dress shoes. “I’m a runner and a heavy walker,” he says cheerfully; “feet have to be happy or else the person’s not happy.” Moreover, in his free time, Dr. Grandy enjoys hiking and running on local trails or around town, and is often accompanied in his exercise by his wife, Katherine.

This year marks Dr. Grandy’s thirty-fourth year teaching at Shasta College. “I do feel very fortunate that I’ve been in the education field for so long,” he says. “I feel it’s a real honor and privilege to be able to teach. I feel just as passionate now about the subject as I did when I first began.”

Comments (1)

  • Red Clark

    It’s been half of forever but I will never forget my favorite teacher from the wayback! Shasta was a great experience and you were the cream of a truly top-notch crop! I’m back at school for a computer science degree and my IT teacher/mentor totally reminds me of you… bass player, jazz guy, inventor… you guys are like twins separated at birth in so many ways…


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