Instructor values music after overcoming hearing disorder

Devin Collins recalls finding his passion for music at a young age, after overcoming a hearing disorder for the first three years of his life.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction happens if the Eustachian tube becomes blocked, if the lining of the tube swells, or if the tube is not fully open to allow air to travel to the ear. This can be caused by a cold, flu, a sinus infection, or allergies. Collins’ condition was linked to his sinuses, and he was deaf until he was 4 years old.

“I wasn’t really old enough to remember overcoming it,” Collins said. “I just know from what my parents told me that it was a major improvement. Being able to understand language and hear my environment was crucial to my development as a human being. The fact that I was able to hear music for the first time at age 4 probably contributed a lot to my love for music.”

IMG_0936Collins, originally from Maryville, Tennessee, moved with his parents at a young age to Dallas, Texas. He spent most of his life growing up southwest of Dallas in Cedar Hill.

Collins graduated from Cedar Hill High School in 2002. He went on to enroll at the University of Houston, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Music Composition in 2007. After graduating from Houston, he transferred to Texas Tech University in 2012, earning his master’s degree in Jazz Performance in 2017.

Collins played music all throughout high school and college, participating in a Wind Ensemble, marching band, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra, Brass quintet, and Tuba Ensemble, as well as in a few smaller bands outside of UH. While at TTU, Collins was a part of the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo.

“I was also gigging frequently as a solo pianist and as a member of my band, The Beat Garden,” Collins added.

Collins began teaching at South Plains College in January of 2018 and has enjoyed his time working here.

“Honestly, I hadn’t been much of a teacher until I started doing this,” Collins said. “I have been playing for a long time, and so teaching in this environment with more pop and commercial music, since that’s what I’m used to playing, I thought maybe this will be a good way for me to get used to teaching.”

Collins primarily plays the keyboard, but he also plays a variety of other instruments, ranging from bass guitar, drums, and ukulele, to brass instruments such as trumpet, mellophone, and tuba.

“I actually started music on the clarinet, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so I had to play something that was free, which happened to be the tuba,” Collins said.

At SPC, Collins teaches private piano lessons and Funk Ensemble, along with serving as the director of the Touring Ensemble which performs at a variety of area schools for students.

“Its purpose is to go to schools in our service area and perform for many students,” Collins said. “Ideally, we try to perform three to four times a semester.”

The ensemble plays a mixture of songs that are popular with the generation that is current for high schoolers, along with a mixture of songs that challenge the band and the vocalists. Not only do they play popular song choices, the ensemble tries to represent various eras of music.

“We mostly try to play genre pop,” Collins explains. “We don’t really play things like classic rock or country. It’s mostly pop, Top 40, or classics that really stood the test of time.”

The touring ensemble features six students who are musicians, along with students in the live sound program, which includes one or two different students to help set up for each performance. They also bring four to five different students who help video the performance. So far, the Touring Ensemble has traveled from Lovington, New Mexico, and to Patton Springs, Texas, which are both about two hours away. The group has only played for grade schools. However, Collins is planning on expanding to other performance opportunities in the future.

“The best part is working with the students,” Collins said. “They are talented, driven, and so much fun to be around.”

The touring Ensemble members include:

Carter Franks, 19, sophomore Commercial Music major from Lubbock, who is a vocalist. He is the son of Lu and Ginny Franks of Lubbock; Gillian Hess, 21, sophomore Commercial Music major from Lovington, N.M., is a vocalist. She is the daughter of Geoff and Kim Hess of Lovington, N.M; and Duncan Newey, 18, freshman Commercial Music major from Hobbs, N.M., is a drummer. He is the son of Paul and Mika Newey of Hobbs, N.M.

Joseph Raney, 20, sophomore Sound Technology major from Lubbock, plays bass. He is the son of Don and Robin Raney; Hannah Scott, 19, sophomore Commercial Music major from Levelland, is a vocalist. She is the daughter of Greg and Julie Scott of Levelland; and Jaden Wells, 18, freshman Commercial Music major from Lubbock, plays guitar. He is the son of Michael Wells and Jamie Pitman, both of Lubbock.

Collin says that it is rewarding to play music with other people who are also at a high level. He explained that there are moments that happen when he’s playing with another person and they both have similar ideas at the same time to add to the music. When the two ideas come together and happen to fit with each other, it sounds amazing.

“That’s one of the moments you live for as a musician,” Collins said. “And of course, bringing music to an audience. For people to have a shared experience with us as we’re providing music, it’s enriching all of our lives.”

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