Professor helps the music department grow, pushes for more


Colarusso has played the saxophone for 29 years. 

Most professors wear suits, carry briefcases and demand to be called Professor or Doctor. With an earring, vibrant shirts and saxophone usually nearby, Joey Colarusso is not like most professors. He did not even think he would end up as a college professor. His bachelor’s degree is in music performance, and he thought he would be a performing musician for his career.

But seven years after first arriving at St. Edward’s University, Colarusso has done more than become a professor. He still constantly plays jazz gigs around town, he teaches five music classes this semester and he advises two different music ensembles on campus. He is also working on his doctorate and raising two young daughters with his wife.

The on campus music scene

When Colarusso got to St. Edward’s in 2006, he said the music scene was not completely absent, but was not what it is today. In 2006, there were two established vocal groups: the Madrigal and Omni singers. But there was no jazz band, and the mariachi group was a student-run organization. Neither groups were performing around campus like they are today.

“It wasn’t a bad time for music, it was an exciting time for music because things were starting to happen,” Colarusso said.

Colarusso is only one of two full-time professors in the music department. The other, H. Morris Stevens Jr., is the area coordinator for the music department and has been at St. Edward’s for almost as long as Colarusso.

“We all shared this small space together, and Joey was always pleasant to talk to, I always enjoyed listening to his stories,” Stevens said.

Stevens also said that although he is the head of the department, both he and Colarusso split duties, with Colarusso coordinating the instrumental aspects of the department. Colarusso has been playing the saxophone for 29 years and can play at least three other instruments with ease.

Pushing for a music major

Since Colarusso has been on campus, he has helped the music department grow and have a stronger presence. He has helped build two newer student groups, Steady and Mariachi Alas de Oro, and he has increased awareness about the music department. The groups have even released albums. However, he still believes there is more that can be done.

Colarusso said there is an active push for St. Edward’s to offer a music major; however, the resources in the music department are limited and would not be able to fully support a major.

The music department is housed in the Carriage House, which was built in 1922 as a pump-house and garage. The two story building now has two private practice rooms, two private offices and no bathrooms or plumbing, as well as no handicap access to the second floor. Colarusso said to be able to fund a music major, it would probably come down to a large donation specifically for the music department.

More than teaching

None of Colarusso’s students call him “Professor Colarusso.” All his students call him Joey, and he interacts with them more as a peer than as a professor. His teaching style is filled with jargon only music enthusiasts could understand. His ear is finely tuned to the most minor changes in pitch, and he conveys all this to his saxophone students trying to hit a solid A instead of a sharp or flat too high or too low.

“Joey is able to see the potential you hold as a musician and will always push you to be a better player,” senior Joe Valadez said, who has had Colarusso as a professor and faculty adviser for the jazz band on campus.

Colarusso also makes studying and playing music understandable, and constantly uses humor in his teaching to take the edge off a rocky practice.

“Play as if you’re saying to the singer, ‘yeah, I get you, I agree!’,” Colarusso said to his jazz ensemble class practicing Etta James’ “At Last.”

Even though St. Edward’s does not offer a music major, Colarusso said he is excited about the program’s growth.