Meet Justin Stefanavage: A Jazzy Student Teacher
By Lauren Highfill
Justin Stefanavage, a music education major at Kennesaw State University, says, “I like to enjoy my life and get the most out of the classes I take.” But mention jazz, and he speaks with a new intensity.
“Jazz is a wonder to me,” he says. “It’s really the reason I enjoy music so much.” His annual involvement with the KSU Jazz Ensemble is a testament to his musical inspiration. “What’s great about jazz is that you’re not playing the same piece over and over again. You put your own personality, your own soul, your own style into each note you play.”
Jazz isn’t the only thing Justin is passionate about. “I get such satisfaction from teaching music,” he says. And he’s had a lot of experience in the field, a fact he credits to Sam Skelton, director of jazz studies and the KSU Jazz Ensemble, and Alan Kirkland, his former band director at North Hall High School.
Before Justin considered attending KSU, Kirkland introduced him to Skelton. “After I took a couple of lessons from Sam, he and Alan said that Kennesaw State was where I needed to be,” Justin says. “So when I came to audition, I met some of the faculty, like Dr. Michael Walters, and I knew right then that I wanted to be in this program.”
Now Justin is in his fourth year at KSU and, in addition to attending classes, he teaches as a supporting instructor at a local high school, works as an instructor and field designer at multiple summer band camps and gives private lessons year-round to up to 15 students.
Justin’s passions for music and teaching haven’t gone unnoticed. He is a three-time recipient of the Audrey and Jack Morgan scholarship, which Justin says is given to a music student who “shows a strong potential to succeed” and has a financial need.
That potential will almost assuredly be fulfilled. As he finishes his degree at KSU, Justin hopes to continually improve as a saxophone player and study his instrument in depth. After graduation, Justin either wants to attend graduate school or focus all his efforts on teaching and playing.