The sounds of music paved way into Hall of Fame

Brian Haag's early years with music were ones of frustration.

"I took piano lessons," he said, "but I didn't enjoy it."

When he reached fifth grade, it was time to pick an instrument for band. Haag didn't get his first choice.

"I wanted to be a drummer, but they wouldn't let fifth-graders be drummers," Haag said. "It was probably a noise-making thing."

He remembered a book he had read, and enjoyed.

"I liked the book, 'The Trumpet of the Swan,' so I asked to play the trumpet," Haag said. "That's as much thought as went into it."

Nearly a quarter of a century after graduating from Mahomet-Seymour, Haag finds himself in the Mahomet Education Foundation Hall of Fame based on his ability to play the trumpet, not only in high school, but later as a member of the Marching Illini.

"By the time seventh grade rolled around, I was decent enough and playing first chair (while living in Ann Arbor, Mich.)," he said. "I never thought of playing anything else."

The family relocated to Mahomet in time for Brian to start eighth grade in the district.

As a high school freshman, he auditioned for a solo in jazz band, and got it.

His career was about to flourish.

"Between my freshman and sophomore years, (Thomas Tait) came to teach brass lessons privately," Haag said. "That was the catalyst.

"That turned me into someone looking at the trumpet seriously."

Haag was on the ground floor of a musical movement at M-S that started when he was a junior. The high school started a streak of winning every competition it entered for a seven-year period.

Haag had plenty of company in taking the instruments seriously.

"What I remember most is myself and a dozen other kids, our lives were music," Haag said. "That's all we did. We never had a chance to get out of shape with all of the practicing we did.

"The core group was in most musical ensembles. It was like a big fraternity. I was with the same people all the time."

Haag expanded his horizons.

"I was a trumpet player first and foremost," he said. "I never sang in a choir until high school."

He soon found a second passion.

"I loved singing," Haag said. "The ability to be in a large-scale ensemble with the Marching Band and then sing with 20 in Madrigals and 15 of them were overlapping, that is irreplaceable."

Haag was in Madrigals for two years and developed an appreciation for what transpired.

"We performed a couple hours of music by memory," Haag said. "I don't understand how you can produce a culture to produce a high school group like that year after year, 20 17-year-olds for two hours, with no conductor, from memory."

He equated the success of the Marching Band to the success that athletes have in their arena.

"Marching Band is like being on a football team," Haag said. "There are a lot of rehearsals and you are dependent on the people around you.

"The biggest thing was we were having so much fun getting better,"

Haag was involved with the band before the tradition of excellence was established.

"We came out of nowhere," he said. "A couple years before, this was a 10th- or 12-place band. We got so consistent. It was like no one can stop us.

"And to have the choral director (Janet Watkins) be married to the band director (Dick Watkins) and double my music overnight, I was lucky."

Haag had no drop-off once he reached the University of Illinois, where he started on a music scholarship.

He was the section leader for two years and also arranged a piece for the trumpet section.

"There had never been a Mahomet person in the Marching Illini and then there were six of us (during his years on campus) and we were all in the first section," Haag said.He changed majors while at Illinois, but had one constant during his five years with the marching band.

"I was doing 30 hours a week of musical stuff," Haag said.

That was then.

This is now.

"I never play anymore," Haag said. "Probably haven't for 10 years.

"The trumpet is not that satisfying by yourself in your house."

While Haag has fond memories of his high school career, he said, "in terms of things I've done that I tell myself are cool, singing on the Carnegie Hall stage is one of them."

Haag and his brother Brad (also an alum from M-S) had parts with a 1990s choir that was singing Mahler's 8th Symphony. Brian Haag sang baritone. Brad Haag sang tenor.

"It wasn't a professional choir, but we still wore a tux and sang," Brian Haag said.

Haag, who works in financial hardware, left on Tuesday for a job in the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

"I will be involved with the design and building of software professional traders," said Haag, who most recently was based in Denver.

"When I look back to music in Mahomet, it's overwhelming. There were a lot of kids who were talented. I happened to be one who did something about it. I had a pretty charmed existence."

Haag acknowledges "I'm a huge NBA fan," but said there was more than his commitment to music that prevented him from playing basketball for the Bulldogs.

"I'm 5 foot 5," he said.

Sections (2):News, Local
Categories (3):News, Education, People


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mozammel wrote on December 03, 2017 at 9:12 am

He was the section leader for two years and also arranged a piece for the trumpet section.

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