‘Music holds unbelievable power’

As a high school student in Asbury, Garrett Arensdorf ’20 seriously considered enrolling in the music education program at Luther College. But when a Wartburg grad told him to look at Wartburg if he wanted a future in music, he took a chance.

“After my first visit I was hooked,” he said. “I went through the motions of doing the lunch and all this other stuff, and when I got to meet the faculty for the first time, what I thought would be a five-minute meeting turned into an hourlong sit-down about planning for my future and how they wanted me to succeed.”

Arensdorf’s love of music began in middle school band, where he found “an incredible learning environment that was accepting and understanding of all students.” While growing as a musician, he found himself wanting to pass his passion for music on to the next generation. As a music education major at Wartburg, Arensdorf has had several opportunities to test his future career as a band director.

“Right out of the gate as a first-year you must get into the field and find out if that is something you really want to do. I have been placed at seven different schools in the area surrounding Waverly. No two districts were alike, and I appreciated the opportunity to teach students from different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds,” Arensdorf said. “For me, music has been an opportunity to express myself in an environment where you can be who you are and who you want to be. I thought that was beneficial for me and my development as a student into an adult. I want to give that opportunity to other kids as they progress as well.”

Although tuba is his primary instrument, Arensdorf is proficient in trombone, saxophone, euphonium, and trumpet. He expresses his talents in multiple musical ensembles, including the Wind Ensemble, Wartburg Community Symphony Orchestra, Knightliters Jazz Band, Wartubium, Trumpet Choir, Brass Quintet, and Brass Choir. He also sings in Ritterchor.

Garrett Arensdorf ’20 and Dr. Craig Hancock work together to roll a dent out of an instrument.
Garrett Arensdorf ’20 and Dr. Craig Hancock work together to roll a dent out of an instrument.

“I particularly enjoy orchestral and jazz. The ability to fill a large concert hall with a powerful symphony sound is something that gives me chills, even as a performer,” Arensdorf said. “Jazz is also enjoyable because of the various styles that can be implemented in the genre. The aspect of improvisation is also present in jazz, and the ability to truly express on the spot through music is something hard to come by in other genres.”

When looking for a model to emulate in his own classroom, Arensdorf finds himself watching Dr. Craig Hancock, professor of music and Wind Ensemble director. “He not only teaches me how to become a better musician or better tuba player, but he also teaches me how to be a better teacher,” Arensdorf said.

Hancock said Arensdorf is one of the best tuba players to come through the college.

“He’s incredibly gifted. The Lord blessed him with talent, but that’s not all it took. It took a number of teachers and many years of training,” Hancock said.

During Arensdorf’s junior year, he was selected as a featured soloist with the Wind Ensemble during the group’s international tour to Japan. His tuba solo, “Variations on the Carnival of Venice,” was one of the most daunting pieces of music he had ever come across. The process of learning the piece took nearly 18 months.

“Each day I barely noticed improvement; however, after looking at my progress in a larger scope, I gradually was becoming more comfortable with the piece,” Arensdorf said. “As time went on, I also began believing in myself, and as a result I ended up having the entire piece not only mastered but also memorized. This was my Mount Everest, and although the journey was extremely difficult, the view at the top of the peak was an irreplaceable experience.“ (To hear him play the piece, click here and fast-forward to the 1:06:00 mark.)

“Music holds unbelievable power, and I truly believe that music speaks when there are no longer words to express. My goal as a music educator is to allow my future students this opportunity to express, as music not only changes the life of the listener but also the performer.”