Asking a college student how they chose their major is kind of like asking a musician how they chose their instrument.

Sometimes the answer is straightforward. But more often it involves twists and turns, a few surprises, and a full cast of characters: a band teacher who says, “I can see you playing the trombone” (perhaps because they need to fill out the brass section in their beginning band) or an aunt who says, “I have an old oboe in the attic—why don’t you try it out?”

For Nathan Compton, the story of his chosen instrument and the story of his major are linked.

You could say it began with his grandfather, who was a band director down in Roseburg. You could say it began with a cousin who offered Nathan the use of an old saxophone which, upon inspection, turned out to be unplayable.

But we’d tell the story best, the story of how Nathan decided to pursue music education, by beginning with an orchestra teacher who came to visit Nathan’s fourth-grade class.

At first, he was drawn to the string instruments. But when he came home and told his mother about the beautiful shape of the violin, she said, “No, remember, you wanted to play the saxophone!” And the memory came back to him: the little toy saxophone he had played with when he was younger. He made his decision.

Nathan’s grandparents offered to buy him a new saxophone, with one condition: he had to play all through high school. Once he graduated, it would be his. “So I did exactly that,” he says.

At the same time Nathan was mastering the saxophone in high school, he was asking himself two big questions: “Where should I go to college?” and “What should I major in?”

Despite the fact that Nathan grew up five minutes from Corban University, he hadn’t really considered applying. “Up until the summer before my senior year, I barely thought about Corban as an option,” he says, “because I was going back and forth between music and engineering.”

To evaluate both options, Nathan decided to take two classes his senior year: Intro to Engineering, and a music class.

“Believe it or not, neither of those was the deciding factor,” he smiles. Instead, it was an empty period during which Nathan decided to become an aide for the freshman band director.

“That turned out to be the experience that would propel me into music education.”

He remembers being asked to lead the band while the director sat with the ensemble to listen. The opportunity to conduct the freshman band was Nathan’s first glimpse into the world of a music educator.

As time went on, he began stepping up more and more, both in the freshman band and the ensembles in which he played. When their director was out for two weeks leading up to a big festival, Nathan stepped up to direct.

“That lit the fire,” he says. “I learned that teaching others to love what you love is worth more to me than anything I could do in engineering.”

The decision to pursue music education brought Corban University back to the forefront of Nathan’s mind. He realized he already had several connections with the music faculty at Corban—in particular, Brian Griffiths, the concert and jazz band director. As it turned out, Brian had student-taught in Nathan’s grandfather’s class in Roseburg. “It all fell into place from there,” he says.

He’s only been at Corban for a year, but Nathan has already developed a deep appreciation for the music faculty. Not only do they know your name, but “they know who your parents are, because they got to talk to them at the last concert. They know what your major is and what you want to do.”

Nathan loves being able to walk into Professor Bartsch’s office and ask him questions about what’s coming up next in class, or even show him something he composed. “It’s nice to have faculty who are always there and very invested in students.”

When asked what he’s excited about for the future, Nathan shares that he can’t wait to pursue a job teaching middle school band. Eventually, though, he sees himself teaching at the high school level. “That’s the place where the most life-change happens,” he says. High school is where students “get to find out who they are, where they want to be, and how music fits into that.”

It’s no surprise Nathan feels this way; after all, high school was the time in his life when he realized what music meant to him.

Nathan has four more years of college to go, but he says, “I can’t wait to one day be where I want to be, educating and making music and making a difference in other people’s lives.”

Nathan Compton is double-majoring in Music Education and Saxophone Performance.

Written by Amelia Kaspari, Staff Writer