Graduation is looming for Delaware State University music major Randy McClure. The big day is in May and like other young adults at his school, he is studying for exams, writing papers and trying not to screw up the last semester of his undergraduate career.
Music majors face some added pressure, too. In addition to final exams and long papers, students studying music also have to prepare for a recital. It's one final opportunity to show everyone that the weekly lessons and the countless hours spent alone in a room with an instrument have paid off.
Most students prepare and perform at one of the theater options on campus. Those options are perfectly sound choices and the venues available certainly get the job done. But, it's not the only option. Delaware State University has a solid relationship with the Schwartz Center for the Arts and, for next-to-nothing, students can actually take their recitals off campus and into the community.
So, that's just what McClure has decided to do.
"I think it's great that he's using the Schwartz," said Associate Professor and Director of Music Industry David Tolley. "We are trying to get more DSU students to follow in his footsteps."
But, McClure said that he's not necessarily trying to start a trend. He just wanted to do something that felt less like a school recital and more like a public performance.
"The theater on campus is great. It seats like a thousand people or something," said McClure. "But, it's not like I think I can fill that. Really, I just wanted to do something different and something that people might feel more inclined to come to."
McClure started showing musical promise at an early age when his parents signed him up for piano lessons. McClure went along with it but his passion wasn't there and before long, he found an opportunity to stop playing the piano and start racing motocross. But, then the family moved and McClure found himself living next door to another budding musician who was already playing the guitar. The two boys became fast friends and before long, McClure had decided to sell his bike to buy his first piece of music equipment: an amp.
"My parents bought me a guitar for Christmas and then I got the amp myself," McClure said. "After that, I never looked back. I was hooked."
McClure barely remembers the music he and his friends would play back then.
"We were really into hard rock and metal," McClure said. "Like Atreyu and Metallica."
By his senior year of high school, McClure knew he wanted to go to music school. He applied and tried out for Boston's famed Berklee College of Music but didn't get in right away. However, Delaware State University offered him a full ride and studying music at home didn't sound so bad.
Page 2 of 3 - "One thing my mom has always told me is that I should try to start out with as little debt as possible," said McClure. "So, when I finally got in to Berklee on my second try, the smart decision seemed to be to stay with DSU. And I'm glad I did. At Berklee, I would have been one of many. But, here, I stand out. I don't regret it at all."
Staying in Dover also allowed McClure to further develop contacts and networking opportunities that have already paid off. For instance, it was meeting and working with Music Director Eugene Roberts that led to McClure's first big professional audition for John Legend's band.
McClure follows Roberts on Twitter and a tweet about open auditions lit a fire under McClure.
"I saw the post on Twitter and decided to try out since it was in Philadelphia and so close," said McClure. "It was a little bit intimidating to be around all these people who have been playing for years but it was also laid back and easy, too. I learned a lot."
McClure added that he was struck by how confident the best musicians were.
"I'm pretty confident on stage but these musicians were on another level," McClure said. "The way they carried themselves, the way they played, it was obvious that they had been doing it a long time."
But, McClure has been doing it a long time, too. And, at 7 p.m., April 14, McClure is hoping that people will come out to hear what he's learned.
"The first part of the show is the classical stuff," said McClure. "But the second part is the part I'm most excited about. It's contemporary and full of the stuff I love. The audience will hear Jimi Hendrix and Eric Johnson but they'll also hear an original song and jazz standards, too."
His original music will also be available for sale that night as well. McClure is finishing up his first album, "Play It Loud" this week and will sell copies the night of his concert.
"I love playing guitar," said McClure "It's so versatile."
For McClure, the versatility of his instrument is equal to the versatility of his career options. In the immediate future, he has set his sights on a graduate degree in business administration. But, long term, he hopes to travel as a professional musician with a touring band.
"My education might make me a better candidate down the road because I'm going to have all these other skills besides just playing music," McClure said. "At least, that's what I hope."
Randy's mother, Pamela McClure thinks that the world is her son's oyster right now.
Page 3 of 3 - "His resume is quite impressive. He has quite a few talents that include photography, writing songs and recording," said Pamela. 'He has accomplished much since holding his first guitar but he's even more impressive in person. We're so proud to be his parents."
A parent's approval is not always enough, though. Choral Activities Director and Associate Professor of Music Dr. Lloyd Mallory, Jr. also sees a lot of promise in McClure's future.
"We have been talking about options and goals and I believe without reservation that Randy will be successful," said Mallory. "Musically, he is improving. He is getting more experience and more exposure, which will pivot him for greater opportunities."
Mallory's greatest compliment, though, was his desire to see more, not less, of McClure after graduation.
"He has an eye for quality and detail," said Mallory. "I would like to keep him around to hire as my assistant because he is thorough and he gets what it takes to be great."