Music professor retires after three decades

Composer worked to write music that anyone can appreciate, breaking rules when needed



After designing the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll curriculum and composing music, David Jarvis will move to Hawaii.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen reporter

Wander inside Kimbrough Music Building on a given weekday and you’re bound to hear music from all types of instruments radiating out of different areas in the building.

Choose your path wisely, and you may find yourself in front of the percussion practice room next to Professor David Jarvis’s office.

After 32 years of building the percussion program at WSU and watching his students find musical success, Jarvis said he is finally ready to step away from teaching to retire.

“I feel pretty proud of what’s happened over the years,” Jarvis said. “I’m just at that point in my time now where I need to go on … the next chapter.”

Jarvis was responsible for designing the history of rock music curriculum at WSU when only a few others like it existed in the country. The class had about 17 students at its inception but has since grown to have about 700 students enrolled in the class each semester, Jarvis said.

“By luck and fate, I applied for the job and made a U-turn,” professor David Jarvis said.

During his time here, he also organized the percussion ensemble, which he said has a very high level of playing.

“With someone that has been in the department this long, and contributed to the music program this long, you don’t really know how many things they’re doing until they’re not here,” said Horace Alexander Young, an associate professor in the school of music and longtime friend of Jarvis.

Outside of his teaching, Jarvis is recognized as a published percussion composer and his music has been played around the world.

“I hope to continue to write after retirement,” Jarvis said. “I also plan on continuing to play, too. Just because I’m retiring doesn’t mean I hit the brakes on all that stuff.”

Jarvis said his witty music can make people laugh and feel good.

“I want my music to be the kind that, even if you’re not musically inclined, that you would listen to something and you would say ‘I don’t understand but I love it,’” Jarvis said. “You don’t worry about if you’re breaking any theoretical rules or anything — if it works, it works.”

Jarvis, who grew up Detroit, Michigan, came to WSU for graduate school after completing his bachelor’s degree in Nebraska. He returned to the Midwest for several years to direct college-level bands but came back to Pullman in 1987.

“I saw a vacancy notice, that they were looking for percussion here,” Jarvis said. “By luck and fate, I applied for the job and made a U-turn and came back here.”

Jarvis said he feels lucky to have found a job doing what he loves for the last 32 years. His advice for students: Consider what makes you happy and do that.

“Don’t worry about doing something because you’d make money,” he said. “Here I am, my day gig is playing music and teaching music … have I really worked a day in my life?”

Jarvis plans to move to Hawaii next spring, where he said he knows other musicians.

The WSU School of Music is sure to miss Jarvis and his infectious energy, Young said.

“He’s plugged in as a performer and a teacher and a mentor and a colleague in every bit of music that’s been going on in the music school for three decades,” Young said. “You can’t say that about a lot of people.”