ALAMOSA – Darren Rahn ’94 followed his heart and passion to compose his great story. He believes Adams State University was instrumental in his success.
“I knew Adams State would provide an all-around education and time for me to devote to learning my craft,” he said.
A jazz artist, producer, and mixing engineer, Rahn has over 25 number one radio singles and multiple Grammy nominations. “My story what I was meant to do.”
Rahn will perform with Adams State music students during the Homecoming Jazz Concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, in Vistas, located on the third floor in Rex Stadium.
A lot of time, energy, and hard work is needed to become successful in any field, and that certainly applies to any of the arts – especially the music business. While attending Adams State, Rahn held two work-study jobs, taught ten saxophone private lessons, and took 25 credit hours per semester.
“I spent a lot of time in the practice room. When everyone else went home or out, I was in there practicing.” This commitment to his art and the work ethic served him well in the professional world.
Although he is well-known as a jazz musician, Rahn knows many different styles of music. He participated in all the ensembles on campus including concert band, marching band, jazz and jazz combo, and even concert and chamber choir.
“I developed a wide skill set at Adams State. It plays a big part in how I write and produce now. I dabbled in all of it in college. All different facets of the music program I experienced in the different areas were integral to my career.”
Adams small size
Larger universities attempted to recruit Rahn. However, he connected with Dr. Benny Ferguson, former music department chair. “He made sure the big schools did not me whisk away.” Ferguson helped Rahn receive a small scholarship and helped him secure his work-study positions.
“We had schools looking at us (Rahn’s twin brother, Jason ‘94 also graduated from Adams State) but we wanted opportunities to grow and develop and we believed Adams State could better provide those chances. I had friends attend big schools and they got lost in the crowd.” Rahn didn’t let limitations hold him back, despite the fact Adams State had no jazz program, an “excellent” adjunct, Mark Israel, traveled to-and-from the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy to teach trombone and jazz.
“He was a great force to learn all about jazz. So many instructors laid the ground work and planted the seeds for my future career.
Rahn eventually taught a jazz improvisation class. “When you have to develop the skill set to teach and explain to other students, it deepens that area for you as well. From my perspective, rather than push students through the system, Adams State allowed us to develop our own music personalities. It was key to the experience.”
After earning his degree in music education and performance from Adams State, Rahn received a master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado and started working on a doctoral degree.
“I realized I did not need a paper to perform. I wanted to risk it all and go for a professional career as a musician and recording artist.”
He continued to enroll in clinics and workshops which were “beneficial” throughout his early career.
Persistence pays off
It took 10 years of persistence and dedication to his career before the record label Rendezvous Music provided a wonderful opportunity. Rahn had submitted a song and although they admired his work were unable to sign him. Instead they put him in touch with Wayne Tisdale, jazz bass guitarist and former member of the 1984 United States Basketball “Dream Team.” Tisdale liked the work and Rahn produced a radio single for him.” Within nine weeks, Rahn’s remake of Tisdale performing “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now” was number one on the billboard charts.
“Then the phone started ringing with requests for me to record, produce and play. It is grace, trust me.”
The opportunity was not a “lucky shot.” Rahn spent 15 years prepping for his opportunity and his belief system has always carried him through the more challenging aspects of his life.
“My faith is the core of who I am musically. God’s grace has carried me through.”
When advising young musicians, Rahn says: “Don’t look for any big doors to open just go through all the small doors with excellence and preparation. You have to have a servant’s heart and be the person everyone wants to work with. Check your ego at the door. Say what you are going to do and then do what you said.”
Rahn and his wife, Priscilla, continue to live and work in the Denver area. They enjoy traveling and experiencing many different cultures. For more information about Rahn, visit darrenrahn.com.