Written by Nicole Johnson
The first time Erin Duke ever played percussion, she knew it was something she could never give up. As a kid, Duke would write tunes that she would enter into her elementary school’s art contests and when she learned to play guitar, she would come home from school and play for hours. In high school, she started to compose things for larger groups and in her junior year, she wrote her first piece for wind band and a few chamber pieces but never thought this could be an applicable area of study.
In her sophomore year, Duke was starting to have doubts that her practice wasn't paying off and that she may not have been on the right path. However, one of her professors offered her an opportunity to play in a symphony. Duke was tentative because she did not want to be the one to mess anything up. She went through with it and felt secure afterward that this was what she wanted to do for as long as she could. She says that “For someone, especially as esteemed as the faculty at APU are, to have faith in me meant the world. I had never been given that sort of an opportunity, and that first performance as a 'semi-professional' musician solidified my view on where I see my future.”
Duke is studying Percussion Performance and Composition and quickly realized freshman year that as much as she thought she could develop and compose things on her own, she needs to ask for the opinion and guidance of others. And with that guidance, she has been able to have three of her own compositions published since. Throughout her years at Azusa Pacific, she has been given tools to understand music to an extent that she never thought was possible. She has experienced raw emotions, calculated approaches, and even mistakes, but they have all been able to translate far beyond composition and into her playing, listening and other areas of study.
Duke says that in her time at Azusa Pacific, she has been shown so much professionalism, care, passion, faithfulness and grace that have pushed her far beyond the boundaries she thought were possible. “There have been intense highs and lows that I have come to face, and probably still have yet to come, but I don't doubt for a moment that these are all a part of God's larger plan for me,” said Duke. Every step of her journey has been vital in the current version of herself; from the arduous UCO ministry weekends, to the late night Chapel Band Rehearsals, Duke has seen those around her showing her that she is where she is supposed to be. She has learned to “listen intently, not only with my ears to the music around [her] but with [her] heart to the message underlying.”
Duke currently has the opportunity to be the student conductor for APU’s Percussion Ensemble. She loves every moment of it and it is something she can see herself doing in the future.
Words of Wisdom: Find ways to take the things you learn in one place and apply them somewhere else. The simplest ideas can instill change in every aspect of your life.