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Spotlight on Alumni: Bret Hoag

Bret Hoag was a member of the Oberlin studio during an especially rich moment in time (Bret enrolled in 1996)--his classmates were every bit as ambitious and talented as he was, and spirits were high. Not all of them from that period is still in "the business," but many are. Bret is one of the most successful grads from that period. I enjoyed him enormously--he used to come to my house for lessons when he was still in high school, and we got to know each other well. I'm immensely gratified to see his success and beautiful family. Congratulations Bret!!

Here is is own recounting of his story.

Bret Hoag today
I started playing guitar in elementary school primarily because my father had a classical guitar. By 1993 I was studying guitar with Joe Fava in Detroit; on his advice, I auditioned for the Interlochen Arts Camp, where I spent the summer of 1993. There, I met Bobby Ferrazza, who was the jazz guitar instructor at Oberlin Conservatory. He told me that Oberlin had just started a classical guitar program and that there was a great young classical guitar teacher there named Stephen Aron.

I made contact with Steve, and by my senior year in high school I was driving to Ohio every other week to study with him. He allowed me attend studio class with his college students, and would have his students put me up for the night. I knew Oberlin was where I wanted to attend college, and during my last year of high school I counted the days until could I officially be an Oberlin student.

Oberlin, and, more specifically, Steve’s guitar studio, was a magical place; the positive, supportive and fantastically challenging environment was just what I needed. Steve was a wonderful teacher and brought numerous guest artists to campus to teach and perform. The structure of Steve’s studio classes, in which he would not only coach the group or student performing, but also foster a discussion with the whole studio, is one that I still use in my own studio classes. Also, Steve’s conviction of ensuring that his students perform a wide range of repertoire made the experience even more valuable.

Oberlin Guitar Studio, November, 1999
Left-to-right: Rami Vamos (visiting), Benjamin Cantu, Julius Carlson, Bret Hoag,
Jason Pollack, Stephen Aron, Kyle Gilbertson and Nicholas Ruth
One the biggest residual benefits from my education at Oberlin is the fact that Steve created so many successful students. I now have a large network of good friends who are active professional musicians. It’s a wonderful source of support and advice that I regularly consult.

After Oberlin I attended Indiana University, where I studied with Ernesto Bitetti (starting in 2002). At IU I gained an interest in performing new music, and became good friends with some of the composition faculty and their students. In my third year of graduate school, I got a full-time teaching position at IUPUI in 2004 (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) and married Melissa Hoag, a music theorist who was enrolled in the Ph.D. program at IU. (A funny footnote: Melissa was also at Interlochen in 1993 when I was there! However, it will suffice to say that we ran in different circles…Another connection--Melissa was music theory classmates at IU with another Aron alum, Rusty Jones--see his Spotlight article elsewhere in this blog).
Bret and Melissa are married
IUPUI was a wonderful learning experience for me, as it was my first opportunity to grow a guitar program from scratch. In addition to teaching guitar at IUPUI, I was asked to teach other classes, like History of Rock and Roll and Music of the 1980’s, something I never expected to find myself doing, but I completely enjoyed it.  Around that time, I and several other classical guitarists founded The Classical Guitar Society of Indianapolis. I played a lot of chamber music with local classical musicians, and some jazz gigs with the late Jack Gilfoy. While we lived in Indianapolis, I was also fortunate to teach at the University of Indianapolis, a position a greatly enjoyed.

In 2006, Melissa was almost finished with the Ph.D., and so she began the process of applying for tenure-track positions in music theory. We were lucky enough to have several options, but the school that looked the most promising for both of us was Oakland University in a suburb of Detroit. They hired me as an applied guitar instructor, and Melissa as coordinator of music theory (2007). I began doing what I had done at IUPUI and University of Indianapolis: I started a guitar ensemble, and began doing workshops with local high schools. Soon, I attracted some very good students. I also performed solo recitals and chamber music with several Oakland University faculty, including flutist Jeff Zook, tenor Drake Dantzler, and clarinetist George Stoffan. One of my performance highlights in Michigan so far has been performing a concerto by PQ Phan with the Oakland Symphony.

I now have a studio of eleven guitar majors.
Bret's current guitar studio

In 2013, the Oakland University Guitar Ensemble won the departmental Chamber Music Competition. This year, one of my students was honored with the department’s Outstanding Student in Instrumental Music award. Almost all my students have jobs teaching guitar, performing gigs, and working as studio and church musicians. My guitar ensemble has premiered several new pieces, and guest conductors have worked with the group as well.
Bret Hoag conducts his Guitar Ensemble
Perhaps most interestingly, the ensemble has collaborated with the OU dance department in performing and choreographing recently composed music for guitar ensemble.
One of Bret's students collaborating with dancer
Most importantly, at least from my perspective, the guitar ensemble is a supportive and creative environment like the one we all enjoyed at Oberlin.

2013 was by far the most exciting year so far for us, both professionally and personally. My wife was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure after having articles published in several prestigious music theory journals. Most importantly, however, our first child, Atticus Yates Hoag, was born in November 2013! 
The Hoag family!

Daniel Silverman's Junior Recital

Velocity: Fast i-m Alternation, Now.