Alumnus on the rise: Music is a vessel for Sam Stranz

Sam Stranz in forefront, Chihuly chandelier in background
Sam Stranz in the Weidner Center for Performing Arts

For alumnus Sam Stranz ’15 (Arts Management and Music), music has been a vessel for growth, connection and self-expression. Through music, a driving force in his life, he has learned to overcome the barrier of self-doubt, learning that everyone walks a different journey and the only true way to measure your progress is to gauge against who you were yesterday.

If you have attended a production or event at the Weidner Center for Performing Arts, you may recognize Stranz. After receiving his master’s degree in Jazz Pedagogy, he returned to continue his journey and leave his mark on the community, supporting the arts through a role with Weidner Center for Performing Arts as front of house and events supervisor.

What are you doing now?

“I recently started working at the Weidner Center as the Front of House and Events Supervisor. I manage the student workers and volunteers for performance events and coordinate non-performance events such as faculty conferences, dinners, and presentations. I also co-lead the Green Bay Jazz Orchestra, teach private lessons in woodwinds and jazz, compose and arrange, and play with a variety of music groups in the Green Bay/Central Wisconsin area.”

What was your most influential moment at UW-Green Bay?

“After graduating from UW-Green Bay with bachelor’s degrees in Jazz Studies and Arts Management, I went on to get a master’s in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Northern Iowa. As part of that degree, I learned to perform and teach jazz on piano, bass, and drum set in addition to studying advanced concepts in improvisation, arranging, and pedagogical techniques.”

What is your Rise Story?

“For me, the barriers I had to overcome were mostly internal. In music, it’s easy to get in the habit of comparing your abilities to others – fellow students, professionals, or even just people you see on the internet. When you see someone doing something (especially on your instrument) that you can’t, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re not good enough and that you should be better than you are. And as you get deeper and deeper into music, you quickly find that there are endless amounts of things to practice and seemingly not enough hours in the day to make a dent. Realizing that the only musician you can fairly compare yourself with today is the musician you were yesterday was (and is) the most challenging barrier to overcome. Everyone has a different story – different time commitments, learning styles, and personalities. So if I am a better musician today than I was yesterday, then I know that I’m heading in the right direction.”

Why will you ‘never stop learning?’

“As a musician, you never stop learning. There is always a thirst to learn more, and there are plenty of different avenues to explore – more than anyone can accomplish in a lifetime.”

What was the last lesson life taught you?

“Taking care of yourself needs to be at the top of your list. Nothing else matters if your basic physical and mental needs aren’t being met. You will be much more productive for yourself and for others if you take the time to make sure you have what you need as a human.”

How has education ignited your personal growth?

“Education has taught me to question ideas and strive to better the world around me. There are very few problems in the world that are completely black and white, so you can’t look for black and white answers. I strive to see the world from as many perspectives as possible and make informed decisions based on what is right, not what is easy.”

How has education opened doors for you and others?

“The world of education has introduced me to many of my best friends and colleagues. In music, opportunities come from making connections and academia has taught me a lot about how to communicate effectively and interact with a variety of different people.”

How has education leveled the playing field for you and others?

“Education provides students with a multitude of resources that can really level the playing field. But the success lies in how you choose to interact with those resources.”

Why did you major in music?

“I majored in music because I loved the people and the happiness that music brings to everyone. Music for me is a means of self-expression that keeps me going through hard times and fuels my desire to become a better person.”

Why did you choose UW-Green Bay?

“I chose UW-Green Bay because I wanted to study with John Salerno (professor of saxophone and jazz studies). We met at a music camp while I was in high school, and I knew that I wanted to invest in learning from him.”

What advice do you have for future students?

“Take advantage of the time you have to explore new things. Show yourself and your professors what value you are placing on your education by making choices to improve yourself as a student and as a functioning member of society. The amount of success you experience is directly linked to the amount of effort you put in, so don’t expect to be handed anything you don’t deserve.”

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