May 16--FLORENCE, S.C. -- One could almost say that professor Brandon Goff of Francis Marion University just moonlights as a teacher because that's such a small part of what defines him.
The 39-year-old Goff, who teaches music, specifically in the music industry discipline at FMU, is a multi-faceted musical man: an award winning composer, a touring musician and a producer. He is the recipient of numerous awards and commissions. His music -- you might have heard some of it -- is performed all over the United States and Europe.
Later this month he'll be traveling to Europe, with his band Willy Pete, playing for the United Service Organizations (USO) to support the troops overseas. Goff has played lead guitar and sung vocals with the Orlando, Fla.-based rock 'n' roll band for the past three years. All the band members are, like Goff, engaged in other activities in different parts of the country. Fortunately they are also seasoned professional musicians who can practice their set list individually then put it all together two days before each tour. The tours become crash courses in new music, but also something of a reunion.
"Road trips" are nothing new for Goff. Once a month, he goes to Nashville, Tenn., his old stomping grounds, to produce records. In Florence, he recently debuted two original compositions in two weeks with Florence music groups, the Florence Symphony and the FMU Concert Band.
The composing, producing, performing and teaching often overlap, creating a maelstrom of activity that have led some friends to describe him as "frantic."
Goff said he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I have a lot of things going on," he said. "I like it that way. It keeps me going."
Goff's various vocations blend well and make perfect sense, but he said people are still surprised to discover that he is both a professor and a producer. It has something to do with the fact that he produces country music, which many assume isn't something taught, or revered, in academia.
"People say, 'What do you mean you produce country music, I thought you were a professor?' and vice-versa," said Goff. "They are such different worlds, but they blend with me and that's why I love them."
On his trips to Nashville, Goff works with new ensembles for record labels producing records. The ensemble could be a pop, country or classical group depending on the week. While all that is going on, he composes music for groups in Florence and preps for, and teaches, his FMU classes.
GED & Ph.D
If any of that seems like an odd mix, this really is: Goff is a college professor without a high school degree. That wasn't the plan, but ... life happens sometimes. At 17, Goff became a single father and decided to drop out of high school to make ends meet. He got a job working in a factory. Eventually he got his GED and, with support from his father, went to college. Now he holds a bachelor's of music and a masters in music at Arkansas State University as well as a doctorate from the University of Memphis.
A little more than a year ago he took the teaching job at FMU. There were other jobs to consider, but he was thoroughly impressed by the support shown to faculty at FMU.
At FMU, Goff leads the Music Industry (MI) Express ensemble class, and teaches songwriting and musical production. The ensemble class is a Grammy-style music gala group that puts on large-scale shows with elaborate staging and performances of popular music. It teaches students how to run live sound, lighting and how to organize large shows. The FMU Concert Band recently performed his original composition, "Full On Rumble, Concerto for Electric Guitar and Concert Band," in the FMU Performing Arts Center.
Music was a passion for him from a young age. "I think I get it from my father. He was really passionate, terrible musician, but passionate," Goff said with a smile. "He taught me how to play guitar, which is funny because he could only play three Willie Nelson songs."
While in Memphis, Tenn., he performed as a session musician to earn money while in school. The birthplace of blues is, said Goff, "a big musical hub and the epicenter of songwriting and publishing." Time spent there allowed Goff to make a number contacts in the music industry.
"It's what led to my career in music," said Goff. "Once people know your name, that's 90 percent of the battle. Timing is everything."
After school Goff toured the U.S. and Europe. While playing with a band there a couple decades ago, Goff acquired his connections with the USO, which he is now using to land the upcoming tour. Even in Goff's busy life, playing for the USO in Europe stands out.
"It's a unique experience," Goff said. "You're bringing a piece of home to the soldiers overseas or bringing pop culture to foreign citizens."
One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to Landstuhl, Germany and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Trauma Unit, the largest military hospital outside of the U.S. With acoustic instruments in hand, the band plays live music in the halls -- and in soldier's rooms.
"Some of those guys have been hurt really badly. Getting to talk to them is much more rewarding for us than them," Goff said. "It's a humbling experience and helps us keep life in perspective."
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