Meet Brandon Bell: A Mentored Musician
By Jarmea Boone
Photo by Melissa Ray
Brandon Bell, a junior at Kennesaw State University, has an ear for “good music.” He describes this as an acquired skill. “To me, ‘good music’ includes anything that moves me in some way, or is aesthetically pleasing. One thing I’m learning more about during my time at KSU is what makes music ‘good.’ I get excited about music more easily now.” Brandon’s enthusiasm for his craft is exemplified in the saxophone, which he has been playing for nine years.
Brandon performs with the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo and Saxophone Ensemble at KSU, and, off campus, he performs whenever he gets the chance. “I enjoy playing gigs or just sitting in on a jam session,” Brandon stated. “I try to spend most of my spare time practicing or reading a book to learn more about music and about great saxophone players, such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. They used to practice eight, 10, maybe 12 hours a day.”
Another of Brandon’s musical influences is KSU Director of Jazz Studies and Lecturer in Saxophone Sam Skelton. A part of the reason for Brandon’s matriculation to KSU was because his high-school band director struck his interest in taking saxophone lessons with Skelton. “Peter Witte, the chair of the music department, conducted my high school’s district honor band when I was a senior. He talked with my band director and told him that Sam Skelton taught saxophone here,” Brandon explained. “Since my band director already had one student who had taken lessons from Sam, my director encouraged me to look into KSU.”
Brandon credits Skelton for his professional development. “Taking lessons from Sam has by far exceeded the expectations I had coming to KSU. He has guided me to levels I never thought I’d be able to reach. He’s also shown me what it takes to get to where I want to be, which is all so invaluable to me.” Brandon came to college with the intention of becoming a band director and music teacher after graduation, but has since decided to pursue a career in performance and in teaching private lessons like his mentor. “I get most excited about music after a lesson with Sam or after hearing a live performance,” Brandon said.
Brandon appreciates KSU for opening the door to his dream. “I like KSU for all of the different opportunities it has provided me. This program has given me the chance to study with a great saxophone teacher and has provided many performing opportunities. The campus is also close to Atlanta, which has a good number of professional musicians, some of whom I have been able to meet and learn from.”
“I’m just proud that I’m in music school here,” Brandon said. “I’m genuinely happy. This is my greatest accomplishment.”