Professor, alumnus remember performance with Aretha Franklin


Submitted By Brian Shaw

Brian Shaw an Eastern alumnus, poses with Aretha Franklin after a concert during the 1997 Family Weekend.

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

As the world mourns the loss of the Queen of Soul, some of Eastern’s own take time to rekindle an old memory of when their lives crossed paths with Aretha Franklin.

It was Parents Weekend 1997, about 21 years ago when five students and two professors performed on stage with Aretha Franklin in front of a sold-out Lantz Arena.

For two nights, the current director of jazz studies Samuel Fagaly (who played saxophone), former professor of jazz studies and trombone Allan Horney (who played trombone), and Eastern alumni Brian Shaw (who played second trumpet), Ryan Snowden (who played third trumpet), Jason Thompson (who played saxophone), John Kostal (who played saxophone) and Eric Hughes (who played trombone) met what Shaw called the “highest level of expectations” while performing side by side with Franklin’s band.

Fagaly even gave his own saxophone solo to the song “Respect” while Franklin came out one last time to take her final bows.

He said it was a real thrill.

“He was like our local hero,” Shaw, who played second trumpet those two nights, said, remembering the “highlight of the night.” “I remember we were all giggling because he was so good.”

Shaw also said he remembers the look on the bass player for Franklin’s band, which he described as being “just so cool.”

“I remember (the bass player) really digging Sam’s play and the look on his face was like, ‘wow this guys really good,” Shaw said. “Everyone was knocked out with how good Sam sounded and that was a really special thing.”

Fagaly said when Franklin was announced as the performer for Family Weekend, he was told that she would need wind players to help fill the band.

“In Charleston the best resource was us and then there were several students that filled in as well,” Fagaly said.

Fagaly and Shaw said they only had one afternoon the day of the first show to rehearse and Shaw said he remembered the intensity from the band’s music director, H.B. Barnum.

However, Fagaly and Shaw said that after briefly scanning through the music and giving their A-Game, Barnum seemed pleased that they were able to get the job done.

“I thought it was really cool and a really special thing for us students to get to do because they easily could’ve hired professionals from Chicago or Saint Louis,” Shaw said. “Especially now since I’m a college professor it says a lot about their faith in us, I think that was a big deal.”

Shaw said he could remember the “icy” vibe in the room from the other professional musicians who knew they had to perform with students. But, after some practicing and giving it their all, he said the person who was playing the lead trumpet smiled, slapped him and his then roommate Snowden on the knees and said, “You guys are my team.”

Fagaly said only having less than a day to rehearse was a professional experience that was good for the five students and though they were all nervous, he said they had to focus and keep their minds on the music.

Shaw said the concert itself went by fast for both nights and said it was a hard, professional gig.

“I’ll never forget it,” he said.

After the concert, Shaw said he waited backstage by Franklin’s dressing room door to snap a picture with her.

“It was one of the greatest musical moments of my life,” Shaw said. “She was incredible…I’m so grateful.”

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].