Humans of Parkland: Jonathan Beckett

Photo provided by Jonathan Beckett

Photo provided by Jonathan Beckett

Emma Gray


“I’ve always loved music and been involved with music. I’ve always tried to pursue music as the primary thing that I do with my life, ever since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to play saxophone and I’ve done that since I was about nine years old.

I had a teacher early on that introduced me to jazz. I loved it; it just resonated with me. So, I pursued learning jazz. I found that it was a pretty complex thing [and] I discovered that it is a really worthwhile pursuit.

Through many different experiences and many years, I eventually got my doctorate in jazz saxophone performance from the University of Illinois. That brought me to this area.

I moved here with my wife in 2007. A little bit over a year later, I entered the doctoral program at the U of I and eventually got my degree in 2013.

A lot of things have happened since my arrival here. I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve played saxophone professionally in a lot of different situations. All different styles of music; rock bands, country bands, funk bands, I’ve played in Branson shows, [and] I’ve played on cruise ships. I’ve played for the circus and I’ve played in Broadway style shows. I currently play in four different bands locally.

Getting an advanced degree was a way for me to [pursue music] further by teaching. I’ve always enjoyed teaching. I’ve had private students for a long time.

The way that I ended up at Parkland was as a result of some good fortune I think.  I had already met and known [Parkland music professor] Dr. Roubal; he is also a saxophone player. He was aware of me as a saxophone player around town and he invited me to play in a band he played in, called ‘Bruisers and the Virtues,’ which is a Fifties rock style [band].

He was aware that I had finished my doctorate and he asked me if I’d be interested in doing some part-time teaching or adjunct teaching at Parkland. I said, ‘yes, I’d be very interested in that.’ So, that’s how I got started teaching here.

The first thing I ever did at Parkland was teach a single private student. This was maybe four years ago or so. Then a couple years ago, Dr. Roubal asked me if I’d be interested in teaching part time online general education courses, and the first one was music appreciation. My first time teaching in the classroom was when I substituted for Miranda Rowland for a few weeks two years ago. Then, I started teaching more in the classroom.

Everybody has music in their lives whether they realize or not. [In my class,] I try to encourage the attitude that music is a really important thing to have in your life, that it’s more meaningful than just a soundtrack to life.”