Celebrating the Rhythms of Life with Terry Koger

In the spirit of Black History Month, Music & Arts is honored to shine a spotlight on Terry Koger’s story, a tale not merely of notes and rhythms but of passion and the transformative power of education. Our conversation with Terry not only peels back the layers of his personal music education journey but also dives into the heart of what makes music a universal language of identity.

The Prelude: A Childhood Enchanted by Jazz

Terry Koger’s musical foundation was laid in Trenton, New Jersey, starting with piano lessons and evolving through a pivotal encounter with a local teacher who introduced him to jazz. He recalls, “One of the paper route customers was a music teacher… He really got me started in jazz and also teaching.” This early influence, coupled with his father’s diverse music collection, notably the Paul Desmond’s “Take 5” album, sparked his lifelong passion for jazz.

Credit: Dave Brubeck

Koger’s journey included a significant move to pursue musicology, leading to his involvement with the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago. Reflecting on his diverse career and interests, Koger notes, “most positions are very multidimensional… It’s very interesting when I meet some guys that do other things.”

The Crescendo: Education and the Power of Influence

Terry Koger Teaching

His college years were marked by an immersion into musicology, kindled by an early love for jazz thanks to his father’s eclectic music collection. “Early on, my father was a very avid music collector,” Terry shares, highlighting the familial bonds that nurtured his musical growth. This foundation laid the groundwork for Terry’s lifelong dedication to understanding and contributing to the rich tapestry of black music history.

The Ensemble: Teaching, Performing, and Inspiring

Terry Koger began his teaching career in the ’80s during college, initially with a few students, expanding significantly after joining Music & Arts nearly a decade ago, now teaching about 70 students in middle school and private lessons. He stepped in to teach at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Glen Bernie due to unexpected circumstances, describing it as “a quick adjustment, but it was a fun adjustment.” Koger’s dedication to teaching amid the challenges of the 21st century underscores the importance of committed educators in nurturing young musicians and sustaining the arts.

The Symphony: Contributions and Legacy

Terry Koger Vertical Banner

Beyond his contributions as an educator, Terry’s impact resonates in his writings for the Baltimore Jazz Alliance newsletter and his performances with his quintet and other ensembles. His innovative take on Bingo, which Terry calls “Musical Bingo,” showcases his creativity and commitment to bringing joy through music to diverse audiences. When visiting nursing homes, rather than having the residents play traditional Bingo, Terry incorporates music themes – like TV theme songs and ’60s classics – and play clips from various songs. Terry’s legacy, however, is not confined to recordings or performances but is deeply rooted in the lives he has touched and the knowledge he has imparted.

The Coda: A Legacy of Music and Humanity

Terry Koger emphasizes the importance of openness and continuous learning for music teachers, advising them to “be as open to new things, learning as much as you can about different music, different people.” He reflects on his own experience with a mentor, Mr. Rice, who not only taught him about music but also about life, profoundly influencing Koger’s teaching style. Through his story, we are reminded of the importance of passion, mentorship, and the ongoing quest for knowledge. Terry’s narrative is a vibrant addition to the rich tapestry of stories that Music & Arts is dedicated to sharing, celebrating the power of music to inspire, educate, and enrich our lives.

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