Dominic Beirenga: ‘no’ is not a part of his vocabulary.
The Middleville native has tried his hand in everything from saxophone quartet to being an on-air disc jockey for the Night Side Jazz and Blues show with the WCMU radio station.
As a child, Beirenga said he found an interest playing with his grandmother’s old keyboard. Then in sixth grade he started playing the saxophone in the school band. However, it wasn’t until high school when he discovered he wanted to make a career playing music.
“I was extremely lucky to meet John Nichol in high school,” Beirenga explained. “He was my solo and ensemble judge and he invited me to go to the summer music camp at CMU. I built a connection with him and that made me feel really comfortable with CMU, I didn’t audition anywhere else.”
When Beirenga was getting further acquainted on campus as a freshman, he began getting involved with many different groups throughout the School of Music.
He became a member of Central Wails, played for Jazz Lab 1, participated in three Opus’ and is a member of Kavazabava, a band led by a composition graduate student.
“I have no regrets about trying diverse activities, I was always busy but I was always learning,” Beirenga said. “I know I am earning more than just a degree because I have experienced so much, and I feel well-rounded.”
Beirenga specifically loves jazz music, and his interest was enhanced when the opportunity to DJ with Night Side Jazz and Blues was presented.
A friend referred him to apply for the position for the overnight show and when he got the job he said he was like a kid in a candy store when he saw the large walk-in closet at the station with more than 40,000 c.ds and vinyl records.
“During my shift I am able to actively listen to the music, and there is so much value to that,” Beirenga said. “I am able to widen my variety and learn about all of the sub-genres of jazz, which has absolutely helped me as a performer.”
Going to school for a Bachelor of Music Education, Beirenga said his goal to is be a professor of jazz studies or jazz saxophone. Beirenga has known since high school that he wanted to be a professor, but when he came to CMU and saw the environment of teaching he said his decision was solidified.
He credits Professor of Saxophone John Nichol, Professor of Jazz Studies Rob Smith and Professor of Composition Jay Batzner to his interest in music education.
“In my opinion, John Nichol is the best pedagogue in the nation,” Beirenga said. “We connected at camp and he seemed to like the way I played, and it was personal when he mentored me. It encouraged me because he really cares. When I took lessons with Rob at camp, I just looked at him like, ‘wow, players like this really exist,’ he is incredible.”
Beirenga said part of the reason he wants to teach is because he loves music and is passionate about pursuing a profession that allows him to continue to play and compose. The other part he said is that jazz is a new study for music academia.
“There is a lot discussion about jazz and I want to be a part of it,” Beirenga said. “It’s a unique genre, especially for education and I want to develop it.”