To find out more about his music and experience as a musician, I sat down with him for an interview over Zoom.
Zach Williamson: How would you describe your art and artistry?
Chris DeVona: I’m a musician, I like teaching music, and I like writing music!
ZW: What instruments do you play, and how did you start out in music?
CD: I play most of the wind instruments, I can do some piano and percussion, and I’m not very good with string instruments, but I can make my way around. I grew up in a very musical family, so as long as I can remember we’ve been singing around the house. I started playing an instrument in fourth grade.
ZW: Can you talk about the experience of writing music yourself?
CD: I write some for solo instruments, but mostly for ensembles. It’s really rewarding. It’s a different sort of product than performing. When you’re performing something, you get one chance to do it, but when you’re writing music, you can write it and then play it, and then say, “Well, that didn’t really go how I wanted. Let’s change something,” and you can continually shape something without having to start again from measure one. Whereas in a performance, you go from measure one until the end. There’s not really another choice there, but with writing, you can really take your time and make it as perfect as you can. I write some for specific instruments, but mostly for ensembles.
ZW: Are there any particular mentors, instructors, or experiences along the way that have really stuck with you?
CD: Absolutely! My own high school band director was one of my biggest mentors, and he’s still one of my best friends. As for experiences, I have two that have really stuck out. One from playing, and it was the first time I got to watch as a performer, … I was in a rehearsal, and someone who wasn’t in the band and wasn’t a musical person, walked into the rehearsal room when we were just running through something, and we happened to sound really good, and I got to watch them just stand there literally with their jaw dropped in awe. It was one of those moments like, “Oh yeah, this is just rehearsal for us, but this is super cool for them.” That was a really cool moment, realizing what other people get when you play music for them. You don’t think about it too often! You finish your concert, you’re like, “Ok, I missed that note, I could’ve done that a little better, but watching someone react to it, and just be totally blown away was just … I still think about that all the time. The second one was one of the first times I’ve played for one of my family members, who’s not a musician. We were in our living room, and I performed something for [my grandmother] on my instrument, and I apparently didn’t warm up enough, and it sounded pretty good, and her first reaction was “Oh! Well that’ll be nice when it sounds good!” That was a bit of a moment as well.
ZW: How do you think you can pass along your talent as a musician to students, or how does your experience inform your teaching?
CD: I’ve had a blast with music; it’s like my favorite thing to do in the world, and just trying to share that, and playing music that everybody’s going to like, and enjoying playing music. If I can do anything, that’s what I like to do with my students: just have fun with it (and sound good too, but have fun with it).