Mike Crist came to Youngstown State University with the sole intention of getting his degree and going back to his home state of New York, but his plans changed quite a bit.
Crist received his master’s degree from YSU’s Dana School of Music, received a job as a professor upon graduation and has now worked his way up to being the director of the school.
He was introduced to the Dana School of Music because of a connection between his high school band director who knew Tony Leonardi, a former YSU professor.
“It just happened that he made contact with Tony, who then made contact with me, and I started to learn more about the Dana School of Music and YSU,” Crist said.
After Crist graduated from YSU’s master’s program, he applied for a job and was offered the position as a professor.
“It just made sense to go to a college level. I was really interested in playing the trombone, and I can do that here, and I can teach students how to play the trombone,” Crist said.
The trombone has been Crist’s instrument of choice since he was in grade school. Watching the Lawrence Welk Show at his grandmother’s house was a Saturday night tradition for his family and watching the instruments and how they worked was fascinating to him.
“I could kind of figure out how the other instruments worked, but I couldn’t figure out how the trombone worked,” Crist said. “The interesting thing is I’ve been playing the trombone for almost 50 years now, and I still don’t know how the slide works. It’s still a question. How do you make this thing work?”
Crist spent much of his spare time in school revolving around the trombone. He was involved with garage bands that covered artists such as Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears and Tower of Power.
As far as recent music, Crist feels as any classical musician would — surprised at what the population considers good music.
“I like the music, but I don’t identify with some of the pop culture bands of today. I’m a bit frustrated with some of the things that are called ‘music,’ and it’s really not music,” Crist said.
His daughter’s diverse taste of current music and teaching a summer rock and roll class keep him up to date with different types of music.
“I’ve grown to be more interested in a variety of different kinds of rock music. One of my goals is to hear Metallica live,” Crist said.
Listening to live music is a hobby for Crist and his wife, who is also a musician. They try to see as many live jazz trombone players as they can — many of whom are former students.
“Some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard has been spontaneous or [in] underground settings where ‘wow that was really powerful’ instead of walking around campus with head phones in — thud, thud, thud, thud,” Crist said.
Crist still finds time in his busy schedule to perform and was able to play with Barry Manilow when he graced the stage of the Covelli Center.
Crist has seen many success stories come out of the Dana School of Music while he has been involved with it, and has great hopes of keeping that tradition strong.
“For some reason, we have stayed together for 145 years, and it’s my belief that there will be 145 more years. At least, we can only hope for that,” Crist said.
Being apart of the National School of Music Association as an evaluator gives Crist a chance to visit other colleges and see what they are doing, and also to talk to other music administrators about their programs.
“Any music administrator could be asked the question: ‘where are we headed?’ A lot of us don’t know,” Crist said.
Technological advances have been a major change since he has started his career at YSU. Some for the better, and others for the worse as computers try to replace the need for live music.
“I am convinced that music is always going to be apart of our society, and good music is. People are always going to aspire to make good music and listen to good music,” Crist said. “Music is not going to disappear, but it’s going to change; it does every year”.