Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing

March 6th, 2017

Categories: Academia, Education, Music

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Once 19th century British philanthropist William Edward Hickson retired he focused on elementary education and popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” attributed to Thomas H. Palmer’s “Teacher’s Manual” and Frederick Marryat’s “The Children of the New Forest.”

The Facebook post that proud grandmother Judy Schuster sent family and friends–that I’ve copied below–is an inspirational testament to that adage. It’s about the perseverance and grit shown by her musician-grandson, Tyler Schuster, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire [UWEC]. In addition to showing the glorious result of determination and hopefully inspiring others, it says a lot about this young man who proves he will achieve just about anything he sets his mind to.

Kudos as well to Michael Shults, PhD, assistant professor of saxophone at UWEC, a dedicated and caring instructor and skilled, exemplary coach who wrote the post. I can’t think of many in any field who would take the time. Dr. Shults is also an award-winning musician and active jazz and concert saxophonist.

He wrote:

So – I love a good underdog story, and maybe you do too.

Tyler was part of the freshman class my first year at UWEC in 2014. Our first year of lessons was long on constructive criticism and, frankly, short on breakthroughs; a LOT of squeezing and not much juice.

Music education majors at UWEC take one credit, half hour lessons. They are practicing more than ever (which means programming vital foundational muscle memory) and ALL 18-year old saxophonists come in with bad habits. The crucial need to correct these early on, coupled with the time constraints, mean that the ratio of positive-to-constructive feedback I’m able to give in the early going can be a little lopsided. It’s not easy for either party, but it’s much more difficult to correct once that muscle memory is programmed in an imperfect way.

Tyler, in particular, had a lot of things to iron out with his saxophone playing. Lessons were tedious for both parties. But what I could see (and his excellent high school teacher Scott Johnson will attest that this has been present long before I entered the picture) was that Tyler’s instinct when things got tough was to push harder and smarter, instead of shying away from a challenge or being defeatist.

Fall 2015 was really difficult for Tyler as he failed to audition into the Wind Symphony or Symphony Band (I asked him this morning if I could share that publicly, and he said “Of course – that’s an important part of my journey”). It was a really hard dose of reality, I think, but as frustrating as it was, Tyler didn’t challenge the result or place blame. He just put on the hard hat and got in the shed.

I remember a year ago, not too long after that, Tyler sat down in my office and outlined three goals. He wanted to audition into Jazz Ensemble I, Wind Symphony, and, the most ambitious of the three, win the concerto competition and solo with one of the wind bands. At the time I believe Tyler was in Jazz III and, based on the audition results from the fall, would’ve had to leapfrog at least 10 players to audition into Wind Symphony. So – speculative, to say the least.

Then came the fall ensemble auditions. Jazz I: √

Tyler also moved up to playing a principal chair in the Symphony Band (just shy of Wind Symphony).

Then came spring ensemble auditions. Wind Symphony: √

That brings us to last night, when Tyler performed the first movement of the Creston Concerto in our annual wind band concerto competition.

You guessed it: √

Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition, goal-setting, etc. etc. and join us in person or via livestream as he performs as featured soloist with the UWEC Symphony Band – the same ensemble he couldn’t quite make the cut for a year ago – on April 28th.

(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)

Were you—or someone you know–lucky to have a professor, instructor or mentor like Dr. Shults? Do you know young men or women as determined as Tyler Schuster who ignore the odds, carry on and reach their goals?


Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

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9 Responses to “Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing”

  1. Jeanne Byington/Judy Schuster Said:

    When I asked Judy, Tyler’s grandmother, if it was OK to use her name in the post she responded: “Just make sure your audience knows none of his talent came from me. I was asked to mouth the words in choir, which I had to take in seventh and eighth grades, because my voice was so awful. I took violin lessons for a short time, quit when my Dad offered me $5 to do so … the squeaking was driving him nuts.”

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    Perseverance furthers. That’s one of the Frases found very often in the E Ching, or book of changes. Learned it specifically from one of my teachers at the new school. John Brozatski. The course happened to focus on the arts of Japan, but I guess it’s Possible for anyone to accomplish anything, if they stick to what they’re doing… And put their minds to it. Concentrate.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t know that it always works out as well as it did for Tyler but with Dr. Shults’ drive and encouragement–note the end of his post where he writes “(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)” Tyler has no doubt learned that taking it easy isn’t an option.

    I’ve observed that when diligence and smart hard work meets bright and lazy, the former comes out on top every time.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    Riveting story, and strong candidate for a “must read” for every college freshman.

    I can trot out a long line of unusually fine teachers and professors who doubtlessly inspired huge successes among their students along the way, but can’t come up with any specifics.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So glad you were taken with Dr. Shults’ story about Tyler as I was.

    I remember some of my professors, such as Dr. Blackwood, and another one, Dr. Smart. But then I don’t think I succeeded at anything as Tyler did nor that I’d appear in any case history or presentation to illustrate such an outcome. When I made dean’s list Sophomore year I bet my parents, on opening the notification from the college, were surprised. However I can’t attribute that blip to a professor.

  6. hb Said:

    I do not wish to lessen in any way the inspiring message of Tyler’s and Professor Shults’ story; they every bit do deserve your panegyric, but for me its moral is even more important today as our country careens, apparently helpless, towards utterly useless chaos.

    I spent the bulk of my first thirteen years growing up in Europe largely as a child among adults and saw first-hand the physical devastation wrought by World War II and the human devastation done not just by the Germans to the Jews, but seemingly, although usually less brutally, by everybody to somebody else. However, in 1947, my parents sent me back to America to a boarding school just outside of Boston, a city famous for banning books and for its felonious Mayor James Michael Curley who was then running Beantown from his jail cell. He came as a real shock to me, as I had been taught to believe that Americans, unlike Europeans, did not have to suffer from the ravages of inept and corrupt misrule. Clearly they do.

    One of the things that helped Europe recover from the ghastly foolishness of this war was Europeans’ love of music, and serendipitously I also benefitted. Good music was readily available almost everywhere on the radio, and tickets to the opera and concerts were affordable even for children — at least American children given the favorable exchange rates. I went often and gained a love of fine music which has never left me.

    My wife and I occasionally attend concerts of Bard College’s Conservatory student orchestra, and the freshness and enthusiasm with which the students play is, surely like Tyler’s, a delight. However, unfortunately, the market for serious orchestral musicians is rapidly shrinking because tastes in music are changing and technological advances have irreversibly changed the economics of its distribution. One wonders how Tyler expects to make a living playing his sax. I suspect he won’t, but you never can tell.

    The far graver issue today, though, a far more serious one than Mayor Curley ever was, is the menace of the madness in that imposing figure of a maniacal tom cat who now rules over us surrounded by his clowder of in heat scaredy-cat republicans. It is men like Tyler and the professor to whom we must look to have hope for the future.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The good news is that Tyler plans to teach music–his major–and as you point out, music is an essential ingredient to keep us sane. At a giant low point in my life a friend, who had suffered a similar loss, said, “We still and will always have music.” When I feel touched by music when sad or discouraged, I remember his words.

    And Tyler has an advantage over others planning a career like his: His instructor, Dr. Shults, is exemplary. What a model!

    And who knows….Tyler may hit it big and I’ll be able to say, “I wrote about him in a blog post in 2017!”

    I had to look up the word “clowder.” I share for those unfamiliar with the word what I saw on Google. It’s a “noun. 1. a group or cluster of cats. Origin of clowder Expand. … clodder clotted mass, noun use of clodder to clot, coagulate, Middle English clothered, clothred (past participle), variant of clotered; compare obsolete clotter to huddle together; see clutter.”

    I’ve been to Bard’s student concerts and I’ve also been enchanted by their energy. Sprinkled around the auditorium, designed by architect Frank Gehry, among the mostly gray and white heads of hair are the ponytails on young men and women of student age.

    I mention Gehry as I heard him recently interviewed on PBS by Tavis Smiley. He works with younger than college students in LA to ensure that some in nasty neighborhoods where school is a last priority, might be saved by being introduced and enticed to return to school via the arts. One in a group of students visiting his firm looked bored and didn’t say a word. Gehry went over to him and said he’d noticed that he looked like he’d rather be anywhere but where he was. The kid agreed. He asked the kid to follow him and he brought him to a room where his employees were cutting up paper for a project. He sat the kid down and said he had to leave to take a call. On his return 20 minutes later the boy was also cutting paper. The boy had said to someone who’d asked what he was doing, “I work for Frank.” The young man finished high school Gehry reported.

    To save money –ensuring that the 1 percent benefit from tax cuts they don’t need–there’s talk of cutting funding of the arts. I don’t know what to say.

  8. Martha Takayama Said:

    I think that Tyler’s perseverance is remarkable and admirable. I think he was very fortunate to have a teacher who encouraged and trained him so intensely. My husband always refers to the Japanese phrase “akinai”, don’t give up stressing the importance of not being deterred when you encounter difficulties and obstacles. The founder of Panasonic was guided by that concept. The concept also entails a strict level of self-discipline.

    As a Bostonian immersed in the folklore of Mayor Curley, I must stress that he was a scoundrel of great charm who treated his aids quite generously. He also was reputed to give away a mink coat everyday to a needy woman!

    However I think that what hb’s main concerns are of far greater importance currently. We are enveloped by the ceaseless perseverance of a “madman” manipulated by a coterie of sycophants and Emperor’s New Clothes footmen. These unfortunate spineless republicans and fellow travelers quiver with fear, but persist in their attempt to take our country and our lives back to the 19th century. Another preeminent example of such strong will and perseverance for good is in the words of the futile Mitch McConnell about Senator Elizabeth Warren: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There is little if any charm among those in the current crop in Washington DC nor is there generosity. These two qualities make a crook like Mayor C more palatable.

    The spineless followers are not the only ones to quiver. Many of us don’t know what to do to protect ourselves–if it’s possible to do so–and I’m not talking about immigrants here on temporary status or those fleeing terror at home. Will our taxes skyrocket to make up the difference so that the 1 percent can enjoy a tax cut? Will there be no more money to support the arts so that we’ll no longer enjoy small islands of sanity without the beneficence of philanthropists whose numbers shrink? What will happen to Medicare and Medicaid and all those who depend on both? Will we no longer be able to breathe our air especially in cities filled with cars if manufacturers are no longer forced to control poisonous emissions? Too many questions. We can hope that there are more people like the hard working Tyler and his dedicated professor who will help turn things around.

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