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Alumni Spotlight

Jesse Crandell

Jesse Crandell
Licensed Massage Therapist, Myo Massage/Percussionist, Austin Samba School (Austin, Texas)
Degree: AFA
Major: Music Performance
Class Year: 2002

Shortly after dropping out of high school 19 years ago and living on his own as a musician, Jesse Crandell figured that a degree in music might be valuable to his career. So he completed his GED, graduated from Parkland College with an AFA in Music Performance—and soon that realized that higher education was much more valuable than he thought.

"All of the faculty who taught me at Parkland were model educators with talent, knowledge, wisdom and a commitment to serve," he said. "This was a pivotal transition for me between viewing school as an obligation and a burden or opportunity and self-fulfillment. It also accustomed me to being thrown into musical situations I am not prepared for. I had never read a note of music before starting music classes and ensembles at Parkland."

Crandell credits former faculty Dr. Tim Schirmer with being particularly instrumental in his growth as a musician: "I honestly don’t think I would have graduated Parkland without his guidance, support, and assistance."

Today, Crandell performs as a percussionist with Acadêmicos da Ópera-Austin Samba School, which presents the largest Brazilian Carnaval performance in North America each year. He plays a giant bass drum called the surdo and is learning the djembe, a West African goblet-style drum tuned with ropes. Altogether, he plays at least five percussion instruments, guitar, and bass, and he sings in various Brazilian and African community ensembles in Austin.

“Getting my AFA set a precedent for a path according to my values, talents, and passions—not just expectations, social pressures, and insecurities,” he said. “My music education at Parkland taught me how to view music as a science, as a study, as a discipline, and as a role in an interdependent community."

Besides musical achievements, Crandell has earned academic credentials and accolades in other disciplines since Parkland. For one, he trained in Indiana as a massage therapist and has been a practicing LMT since 2004 to support his music pursuits. In 2015, he expects to graduate with a dual Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Linguistics and Portuguese from the University of Texas, through which he has also obtained acceptance in numerous honor societies due to his academic record. He has volunteered and studied in a new country (Costa Rica, Brazil, and Guinea, Africa) and begun to learn a new language (Spanish, Portuguese, French) each year since returning to higher education at UT. He is now applying for a Fulbright Scholarship in Brazil for the 2015-16 academic year.

“Music, massage, and language have been present in every human culture in recorded history, and there is an obvious value and necessity in their role in human life," he said. "Through language study, service and interdisciplinary programs, I have reconnected my academic pursuits to Music Performance, my major at Parkland. I think the volunteer service and study abroad are more substantial than the honor societies."

Crandell advises prospective Parkland students to pursue their educational goals wholeheartedly and graciously accept help from those who care.

"The more you involve and invest yourself in anything meaningful, the more you will get what you want out of it," he said, "and creating a community and allies multiplies your powers. I came to learn and be proactive in my education, not just to earn a piece of paper—and educators recognize, appreciate and promote it.

"Don’t take the easy path if you are looking to truly cultivate yourself and your potential. Nothing valuable in life comes without a price, an investment, a commitment or a sacrifice. Think about what you value. And if you value others, or want to live and work and communicate effectively with them, think about what they value. Face the fear, the uncertainty, the struggle." 

Contact Information

Parkland College
2400 West Bradley Avenue
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217.351.2200
Toll Free: 800.346.8089


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