Even at a young age, Christopher Fashun loved music. He set up anything he could use as drums—pots and pans—and sat in his kitchen playing them. In middle school, he began to play the viola, and after begging his parents to join band, they reluctantly gave in. Despite being a year behind the other seventh grade members, he eagerly jumped in. He later went on to conduct multiple orchestras and became well-acquainted with Brazilian music.
Professor Fashun joined Hope’s music department this past fall. He conducts orchestra and teaches world music and Brazilian drumming classes. While one might notice his height and his shaved head, the most significant trait about him is the constant smile on his face. Fashun always maintains a positive, infectious attitude.
Chapel was a large reason Fashun was drawn to Hope. When he attended Chapel, it was packed with students eager to worship, even though it wasn’t required. He was also impressed by the Jack H. Miller building. Not only is it similar to the concert hall at Goshen College, his former workplace, but he has enjoyed sharing the excitement of this new building with his colleagues.
Fashun appreciates how all faculty members at Hope are encouraged to pursue their passions. This also provides the students with a broad range of classes to choose from.
James DeBoer, Adjunct Associate Professor in the department, detailed that Fashun has brought a new perspective to the department with his Brazilian drumming class, nonexistent before his arrival.
Fashun discovered his interest in Brazilian music during a world music class at St. Olaf. His professor picked a recording about soccer and he loved it. He later went to the music library and constantly listened to Brazilian music with his friends.
When senior year of college rolled around, Fashun decided to make percussion his focus over viola.
“[This] was kind of a silly notion because I had literally no training whatsoever,” Fashun added.
Fashun’s percussion professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison had a world percussion ensemble that focused on Afro-Brazilian and AfroCuban drumming. His professor brought in many artists and residents to play, and Fashun’s interest in the culture grew. This drove Fashun to attend a California Brazil camp three different times.
Except for one, all of his teachers have been Brazilian.
“Because all of my teachers have come to America, I’ve never had to go there,” Fashun said. “But for me, in terms of cultural experience, I already have plans to go next December.”
With gained knowledge, Fashun has tried to integrate Brazilian music into the classes he previously taught as well as the ones he teaches at Hope. He started a drumline with his high school students in Wisconsin, which was a rural community. Many people didn’t know what to make of Brazilian drumming. While conducting a band in Wisconsin, Fashun realized he wanted to continue orchestra. After four years of teaching, he left and went back to school for his doctorate.
“God has a way of blessing us in ways we could never imagine,” Fashun said.
The opportunity with the band helped him get into an orchestral program, as he had worked with all of the instruments previously.
“I love how enthusiastic and excited he gets about conducting,” Sarah Lundy (’19), a freshman in Hope’s orchestra, said. She explained how Fashun always takes everyone’s skills into account, giving each instrument a chance to be the focus of a piece. “He also brings Christianity into orchestra because every Thursday we have a devotional,” Lundy said.
During a recent devotional, a member of the orchestra spoke about the “comparison trap” we fall into. Likewise, when it comes to places Fashun taught before, he described how comparing them to Hope is difficult because of the different offerings at each school. To him, they are like individuals, each place with its own idiosyncrasies.
“One wonderful thing about [Fashun] is he has reached out to every orchestra director in the Holland-Hamilton area to connect with them,” DeBoer said. “He has given them tours of the building and invited them to concerts.”
Hope’s community is now gaining more knowledge about music and Brazil through Fashun’s courses. Fashun hopes to find more performance opportunities on campus or in Holland for the orchestra and the Brazilian drumming group.
He also wants to refine his vision for orchestra as far as what it is and its role in classical music. Although the past few decades have been devoted to playing “dead artists’ music,” Fashun is seeking to include more new and exciting pieces that are less abstract and more relatable for an audience. Collaborating with colleagues is a hope for the Brazilian drumming group.
Fashun is thankful for where he has ended up. Every transition and move he has made was at the right time.
As he told his music education majors, “You have to trust the process and have faith in believing that the right position is out there for you … and sometimes it might take a little longer to find it.”
“Music programs still have to justify themselves in order to survive the chopping block when it comes to budget cuts,” Fashun commented. He noted that this is particularly true within public schools. “I’ve stopped using that argument because, for me, the value of music is that it’s valuable on its own merit. Not only as an academic subject… but as a birthright for every single human on the planet.