Profile: Music to Our Ears–Prep Band Arranger

By Allie Reynolds ’15

When you first lay eyes on John Heckel, you would never expect he was a music genius. But, ever since Heckel’s parents signed him up for piano lessons when he was in the third grade, Heckel has been devoted to playing and creating music.

“I’d practice [the piano] for hours a day just because I liked it that much.” Heckel said.

Now in his sophomore year at Pacific Lutheran University, Heckel is taking his love for music a step further: he helps arrange music for the PLU Pep Band, the band that celebrates PLU’s victorious touchdowns at football games.

The Pep Band director seeks out talented musicians when they audition for Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. Heckel was eager to join in on the fun, especially since the members of Pep Band get paid to play their instruments and have fun.

Heckel plays the trumpet for the band and also volunteers to arrange popular songs for Pep Band, adding to their vast collection of already 100 songs. He has helped fellow band members arrange the popular Disney tune “I’ll Make a Man out of You” from “Mulan”, and the popular Korean Pop song, “Gangam Style”.

“Sometimes you hear a song and you want to play it because it’d be fun.” Heckel said.

Heckel arranges the music by starting with the bass line, the lowest voice in the arrangement. Then, he figures out the progression, or the other notes in the chords, so he can write different parts for different instruments. After he figures out the chords, he takes the melody, the main tune in the piece, and writes it in. Heckel then transfers the basic chords into Finale, a music composing software, which allows him to play around with the arrangement more.

Heckel recalls his very first arrangement.

“The first song I started arranging was ‘Near My God to Thee’. I felt inspired to arrange it for piano.” Heckel said.

In just a few weeks, Heckel will add another instrument to his list. He is starting lessons on the traditional stringed Chinese instrument, the guzheng. Starting lessons on this instrument will demonstrate his love for music and also his love for the Asian culture.

When Heckel isn’t playing or arranging music, he is working hard on his schoolwork. Heckel plans on getting his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, and then attending medical school to study internal medicine after his time at PLU is over.

“I want to be a doctor and work in the Intensive Care Unit.” Heckel said.

When Heckel has free time, which is very rare, you can find him playing video games, his current favorite being “Bioshock”. But, it’s hard for Heckel to do anything that’s not music related.

“Most of my hobbies are around music.” Heckel said.

So, next time you attend a PLU home football game, perk up your ears. You may hear one of Heckel’s many pieces he’s arranged to celebrate the Lutes’ victory.

Categories: Other

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