TRAVERSE CITY — Dan Trahey’s first foray into instrumental music wasn’t anything spectacular, but it led to a career in music that never would have been possible without the opportunity.
The Traverse City native attributes his success in the music world to his upbringing, to a community that placed value on music education. And it’s a success that landed him at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and recently on a stage next to First Lady Michelle Obama.
But all that success began with a tuba donated to him by a local business owner and a dedicated sixth-grade music teacher at Willow Hill Elementary, he said.
“I won my first professional audition with that tuba,” he said. “I just got lucky. I wanted to play saxophone and that wasn’t a financial reality for me.”
Trahey also got lucky when he met his middle school band teacher, Lynn Hansen, who took him to Interlochen Arts Camp where she was an instructor each summer. That experience showed the young musician that there was more to music than just an elective class.
“A lot of people try to get out of where they’re from,” he said. “We just thought that we have to give back to what we got. I learned to work hard through music and people believed in me. I wasn’t the most talented.”
Trahey recently accepted an award from Obama that was bestowed upon the orchestra’s OrchKids program, an after-school music education program founded by the symphony that takes the place of music programs that were cut from the city’s public schools during budget shortfalls. The award was one of a dozen National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards given out each year.
Trahey works as director of artistic program development for OrchKids, but before that founded a program in Traverse City called the Archipelago Project. That program provides summer music education to school students and tours the world playing a variety of music to expose students and audiences to a variety of genres at once.