San Juan College Jazz Festival will reunite teacher with one-time student
Delbert Anderson, Chris Beaty will share stage again
FARMINGTON — Delbert Anderson was still a kid the first time Chris Beaty saw him play. It was in the early years of the San Juan College Jazz Festival, almost 20 years ago, and Beaty, a faculty member at Eastern New Mexico University, was serving as a judge for the high school jazz competition that serves as one of the main elements of the annual event.
Anderson was a student at Kirtland Central High School then, and he recalled that while he enjoyed playing the trumpet, it was not something for which he had developed a passion.
"I didn't even know if I was going to do music or not," he said, reflecting the aimlessness many young people feel at that point in their life.
But Anderson, now an adjunct music instructor at San Juan College and the leader of his own nationally touring jazz quartet, took his first step down that path because of Beaty's intervention.
The ENMU professor was impressed enough with Anderson's performance that day to make note of it, later dispatching one of his fellow instructors at the Portales school to pay a recruiting visit to the teenage trumpet player in an attempt to lure him east.
"He said I had a great sound and a great ear for jazz," Anderson said.
Beaty, now an associate professor of saxophone at Texas A&M-Commerce, remembers that day, too. After Anderson caught his attention with his improvisational skills and the way he seemingly led the band from the back row, Beaty turned to one of his fellow judges, another ENMU faculty member, and said, "That guy has some energy."
By the time he graduated, Anderson had accepted the offer of a full music scholarship to ENMU, which brought him into Beaty's orbit. Over the next four years, the saxophone player and professor would become Anderson's mentor, friend and collaborator — a relationship that will be renewed this weekend when Beaty serves as the guest artist for the 20th annual SJC Jazz Festival.
"He really got me hooked," Anderson said. "I owe a huge credit to him. … He was a really big part of my music career developing. It's unbelievable that we're going to be working together again."
Lessons in music and life
Anderson said Beaty encouraged him to improvise and find his own path as an undergraduate musician rather than shepherding him in one direction.
"He really let me experiment on my own, although there was really specific guidance he offered — not just in music, but I applied it to life and my studies at the time," he said. "He was there to help me personally."
Anderson said he and Beaty typically played together two to three times a week during his college years. He said he doesn't see many music educators who are that generous with their time when it comes to building a relationship with their students anymore.
"Every day, I was learning something about music and something about life," Anderson said. "I'm really sentimental about (that time period)."
Beaty remembers Anderson as someone who was always eager to learn more.
"He's probably one of the most insatiable students I've ever taught," he said, noting the maturity Anderson displayed as a college student and the way he embraced the business side of music by lining up nightclub gigs.
Beaty noted that while he has continued to work mostly in the academic realm, Anderson has honed his music business skills by managing his own successful jazz group, DDAT, and founding and leading the San Juan Jazz Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting live music in the area. In that sense, Beaty said, the student has surpassed the teacher.
"He's gone way beyond whatever I've done," Beaty said.
Anderson cited the debt he owes to Beaty and said he would like to see the Jazz Festival have the same life-changing impact on young musicians that it had on him when he was in high school.
"I'd certainly like to rebuild that connection," he said. "I believe it holds a lot of recruitment value (for San Juan College), but it's an inspiration to young musicians. And that competition is very healthy."
Beaty acknowledged his relationship with Anderson is special, and he said he takes a lot of satisfaction in the success of his one-time student.
"I'm happy to be a small part of that," he said.
'Feels like old times'
Beaty and Anderson will perform together this weekend, something they haven't done in several years after Beaty left ENMU for his new job in Texas. But they have remained close.
"It'll feel like old times," Anderson said, describing his emotions about sharing the stage once more with his mentor. "But it's scary, as well, because he's always asking me what I'm working on. I know he'll have somethings for me to work on. And I know the students are going to enjoy having him here.
Beaty will lead a workshop for middle school and high school musicians during the day on Feb. 28 at the Brooks-Isham Performing Arts Center at Kirtland Middle School, 540 Road 6100 in Kirtland, and serve as a judge for the jazz competition. At 7 p.m. that day, he will perform with the San Juan College Jazz Combo and the San Juan College Big Band in a concert in the Little Theatre on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students, and $12 for seniors and children age 12 and younger at the box office. Call 505-566-3430.
Beaty and Anderson will join forces again at 8 p.m. Feb. 29 to perform a show as part of a quartet called Quarter Funk at Traegers Bar, 5170 College Blvd., Suite 106. There is no cover charge. Call 505-278-8568.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/216TU0e