SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Jonathan Parker’s road to Evangel University included four tours of duty in the Middle East with the U.S. Army. It was during his last deployment that he discovered his gift for teaching music, and his desire to earn a college degree.
“I began singing and playing the piano at the age of eight. It was always a hobby, but I discovered a passion for teaching when I was asked to give lessons to other soldiers while serving in Afghanistan,” he said.
Parker grew up in Chicago and graduated from high school in 1997. He tried community college for a while, got a job, traveled and eventually found his niche in the military.
“I had a friend in a similar situation,” said Parker, who by this time had moved to Aurora, Colo. “One day he asked me to give him a ride to the Army recruitment office. While waiting for him, I allowed myself to be talked into signing up for the reserves.”
Following 9-11, Parker went active duty in the Army, and in early 2003, he deployed with the initial invasion of Iraq.
After graduating from Air Assault School, he returned to Iraq in 2005, and those tours of duty were followed by deployments to Afghanistan in 2008 and again in 2010.
In the middle of the stress of war, it was a chaplain who helped Parker rekindle his interest in music.
“I found God while deployed,” he explained. “It was like a physical weight was lifted, and my attitude about everything was changed immediately.”
Parker started volunteering with chaplains wherever he was stationed, enjoying the opportunities to apply his interest in music. That last year in Afghanistan, several soldiers approached him about helping them learn music for the chapel band.
“Watching them get the concepts was as exciting for me as it was for them actually getting it,” he said. “This experience opened my mind to a new direction for my life.”
Transition to educator
Parker completed his commitment to the Army as an E5 in the spring of 2012, moved to Springfield, and enrolled as a music education major at Evangel that fall.
“I was very nervous coming in — most guys my age do night school, and I wondered how I’d fit in,” he said. “I had heard so much good about Evangel’s music ed. program, though, that I knew this was the right place for me.”
While at Evangel, Parker has studied piano all four years with Dr. Linda Ligate.
“Jon is a student who enjoys the learning process, whether the content is music theory, music history, piano literature, or applied piano,” said Ligate. “He is a student who has whole-heartedly embraced the commitments and challenges of being a music major.”
In addition to the coursework and long hours of practice, Parker sings with the Evangel University Chorale, is active with the National Association for Music Education, is a member of the EU Student Veteran’s Association and serves as a work-study in the campus Veterans Center with Chaplain Stormy Davis.
“Jon’s time in the military has taught him to have an extreme amount of patience,” said Davis. “This will come in handy in his chosen career.”
The end is in sight. Parker performed his senior recital on February 7, and “It went wonderfully,” he said with a smile.
“I’m currently doing my final practicum with the Fair Grove School District, where I enjoy working with the choir,” said Parker.
This 37-year-old veteran will graduate in May with a degree in music education, certified to teach K-12.
“Following student teaching in the fall, my goal is to stay in Springfield and have a long career teaching music in one of the local school districts,” he said.
STORY FEATURED in the SPRINGFIELD NEWS-LEADER (Feb. 12, 2016): http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/2016/02/11/eu-senior-discovers-passion-while-serving-afghanistan/80236028/