James Madison University graduate student demonstrates his skills as JMU marches in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


SUMMARY: Master of Music student, Shawn Davern arranges George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" for the Marching Royals Dukes Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade performance.

By Brooke Z. Graham, Doctoral Candidate, Strategic Leadership

For Shawn Davern, a master’s in music student, JMU’s participation in the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade permitted a very special opportunity. In the beginning of fall semester, Mr. Scott Rikkers, the Director of Marching Royal Dukes, asked Shawn to arrange George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" for the Marching Royal Dukes to perform in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Shawn jumped at the opportunity. The band performed his arrangement at every JMU home football game, culminating with a performance on live national television in the New York City parade!

Shawn is earning his master's degree in Music with a concentration in conducting and Wind/Band emphasis. He is from Syracuse, New York. He earned his undergraduate degree from Boston University in Music Education.

Shawn’s interest in music started early in life. His dad was a high school band director who encouraged him to play the musical instrument of his choice. His mom was also very supportive of his musical interests. Shawn’s dream is to become a high school music educator. His teaching philosophy revolves around “teaching students to be splendid human beings and productive citizens through the lens of music.” He believes that the best part of life is “playing a small role in someone else's story, and changing students’ lives for the better through music.”

Shawn became interested in JMU’s music graduate program after his close family friend, Jillian Breault told him about the wonderful experience she had with JMU’s School of Music. Shawn was accepted into the program and is receiving a graduate assistantship that helps to cover the cost of attendance.


Shawn says that his program at JMU has had many rewarding aspects. He loves working with JMU’s Marching Royal Dukes, the largest marching band in the nation. He enjoys the opportunity to write and arrange music. His other rewarding JMU experiences include working with professor Amy Birdsong and director Scott Rickers, “studying with conducting teacher and director of bands Dr. Stephen Bolstad, playing trombone in the JMU Jazz ensemble led by Dr. Chuck Dotas, conducting and writing for a myriad of JMU musical ensembles, and being an active brother of the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.”

Shawn says that “the people at JMU have a true sense of family and mutual respect for everyone.” He believes that “faculty and staff are extremely invested in creating the best environment possible for learning and opportunities are boundless, as long as students are willing to seek them out.” Shawn mentions that “working as a graduate assistant at JMU has been a true privilege” for him and that JMU has impacted his life in many ways. He says that attending JMU, “the preeminent music education school of Virginia, has opened many amazing doors for networking and interacting with other fellow music educators.” After graduation, Shawn hopes to find a full-time teaching position in Virginia.

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, December 13, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

Related Articles