Class of 2014 Success Stories: Small town, big time
Lance Witty overcomes struggles to trumpeting success.
By Liz Cope
Wauseon, Ohio, is home to around 8,000 people. It’s a place Lance Witty calls a “little corn field town.” It’s probably not the spot you would expect to be home to one of the brightest talents to come out of the College of Musical Arts’ trumpet studio.
Like many successful musicians, Witty has been playing trumpet since middle school. He played all through high school and was the first student from Wauseon to perform with the All-State Band.
A Falcon at heart before he was a Falcon in actuality, Witty also attended the highly regarded Band Reading Clinic at BGSU all four years of high school. “Throughout high school I realized that music was something I wanted to pursue,” he said. “I’d always thought performance was something I wanted to do, however I initially came to BGSU as a music education major.”
In speaking with Witty it’s easy to hear the dedication and drive in his voice – and perhaps also realize he is not willing to be second best at anything. However, upon entering BGSU his freshman year, he overloaded on credit hours, “really struggled” due to his overcommitting, and fell behind. “Things really snowballed. There were times that it just wasn’t working.”
The hardest thing he had to hear? Key faculty advising him that he would not graduate from BGSU.
“They told me, ‘You will not make it’… and I did not want to believe that since from 6th grade on, this was all I’d worked for. That was hard to swallow, but they were stating the truth.” Witty decided he would take up the challenge regardless and he practiced.
According to Charles Saenz, associate professor of trumpet, “Lance underwent an embouchure (use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to a brass instrument) change during his first year at BGSU and sat last chair in the University Band. He approached this process with a great deal of patience and diligence, as he knew this was essential to his growth and career goals. This really shows how dedicated he is to becoming a wonderful trumpet player.”
Yet with all his struggles, he still had support from the music faculty about continuing and pursuing his music. Saenz remarks, “Lance has an incredible work ethic. As I look back at his first year at BGSU, his growth has been astounding.”
“It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I would not have gotten that at another university."Seeing the progress, Witty kept going and in less than a year fully turned around his playing and finished his undergraduate degree in music performance. “Lance eventually served as the principal chair in every top ensemble at BGSU including lead trumpet in the Jazz Ensemble. This is a highly specialized and physical position and is not typically a skill all trumpet players possess. His ability to crossover between styles and roles is one of his greatest strengths,” said Saenz.
However, the relationship with BGSU that began in 9th grade was not over. “I did not believe I’d gotten everything I could out of Professor Saenz,” said Witty, “or Professor Bixler in the big band,” so he remained in Bowling Green and began his graduate studies while his wife finished her teaching degree at the University.
Realizing that he liked teaching at the collegiate level, Witty pursued an opportunity to teach in the trumpet studio for four weeks in the spring and fall while Saenz was on sabbatical.
“It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I would not have gotten that at another university. I went from being told that I’m not going to graduate from BGSU, to coming back with teaching assistantships for my masters and teaching at the University my last year here, “ he said.
Witty now feels he’s on the right path and this mindset is evident by his successful auditions for top tier doctoral music programs at the University of Michigan, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the University Texas at Austin, University of North Texas and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
“For not really knowing what was going to happen, I ended up getting one of the top scholarships in almost every school I auditioned at, so that was very rewarding,” he said. He will be attending the University of Texas at Austin with a substantial scholarship and studying under trumpet Professor Ray Sasaki.
Following his graduate studies, he plans on teaching a studio at a university. “Ultimately, I’d like to have a job very similar to Professor Saenz … but I have a lot of work ahead of me to get there.”
“Besides Lance's dedication and strong work ethic, his biggest strength is that he is a great person and a natural leader. He takes every opportunity to encourage others around him. I have never witnessed him denigrating others in order to make himself shine. This is a trait that is nearly impossible to teach. You either have it or you don't,” said Saenz. “I can't wait to see his growth in the years ahead.”