Professor finds fulfillment in teaching and playing music


Music professor Joey Colarusso has found a home at St. Edward’s. 

Joey Colarusso has been a music professor at St. Edward’s University for seven years. Currently, Colarusso directs the St. Edward’s University Jazz Ensembles and the SEU Mariachi Ensemble. The best part about Colarusso’s job is that he would not have it any other way.

“It was an accident … I sort of lucked into this,” Colarusso said about how he became a professor at St. Edward’s. 

Colarusso has known since middle school that he wanted to be a musician, or a “rock star,” as he identified it at the time.

“I saw Huey Lewis and the News when I was in middle school and I was blown away by their saxophone player Johnny Colla … I saw this guy get down playing rock and roll saxophone and I thought to myself, ‘Man, that is awesome. I want to do that,’” Colarusso said.

Since then, he proceeded to join middle and high school marching band and continued on to the University of Texas at Austin, UT, to pursue a major in music. Today, his musical journey still continues and he is currently back in school working for a doctorate on jazz saxophone at UT. 

As a saxophone musician, Colarusso has a pretty impressive list of artists he has had the chance to collaborate with.

“Playing with Aretha Franklin … that was fun. Frankie Valli, Olivia Newton-John, that was fun. I’ve played with some pretty cool people … I get an opportunity to play with some fantastic local musicians regularly. And then every once in a while, I get the chance to play with some really, really, really cool person that’s passing through,” Colarusso said.

Yet even after having the chance to play with artists of that caliber, Colarusso remains humble. He would not trade his career as a professor for a tour gig, and the idea of hitting the road no longer appeals to him.

“Some of the best musicians I know have time to practice on the weekends because they have killer day jobs. That’s not defeat. In your twenties, you may think that you want to be a rock star, but I’m 40 now, and I don’t want that anymore. I want to continue to grow musically. I love playing my horn even after all these years, but I love having a family,” Colarusso said.

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring musicians, Colarusso suggests, “Plan ahead. Have a contingency plan.” 

Colarusso hopes to retire as a professor at St. Edward’s University, although not any time in the near future.

For now, he continues to play locally three or four nights out of the week and will continue to enjoy his days as a music professor.

“One of the many things I love about this job is that what I do here is not static. It’s always evolving. And I feel like together, with my students that are wholly committed to what we do, we’re building a program and it’s growing and the standard of performance of all our groups continues to raise the bar every semester,” Colarusso said.

Some musicians dream of bright lights, fog machines, and wild crowds, Colarusso has other aspirations.

“Every day. Every day that I come to work. I love my job here. I’d be hard-pressed to find a complaint,” Colarusso said when asked about the highlight of his career as a professor.

It is clear that Colarusso does not need a stage to be a rock star. His best performances can be found right here on campus, in a classroom filled with college students.