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NMSU faculty musician debuts first album while preparing for other shows

Jim Shearer admits he is a musician because he can't stand not to be. He also admits he picked up the tuba in seventh grade concert band because no one else would.

New Mexico State University professor of music and tuba player Jim Shearer improvises a piece in his office in Music Hall. (NMSU Photo by Daniella De Luca)

He hasn't put it down since.

Shearer, a professor in the music department at New Mexico State University has a number of musical achievements, the most recent being an 11-track CD called "Memphis Hang" released in summer 2008.

Working with Memphis musicians including Charlie Wood and Billy Gibson, Shearer is currently booking community concerts and educational outreach programs with these artists. The four musicians who worked on this album all ironically grew up within a few hundred miles of each other. "This CD represents what happens when music lovers and friends get together with no preconceived notions," Shearer said.

Each of the songs on the album were written by a jazz and blues "greats," songwriters, lyricists and producers such as Leonard Bernstein, Charles Mingus and Joni Mitchell. Shearer and Wood produced, arranged and recorded the band playing songs such as "Not When I've Been Drinkin'," "Mound Bayou," and "Can't Take You Nowhere."

"There's nothing about this album I'd want to go back and change. There's nothing on there I'm not 100 percent proud of, and even though I've done a lot of other recordings, this one is my first record," he said. Shearer has other recording projects in progress; one is a 20th century classical album with his wife, Celeste, who plays French horn.

At work and in his spare time he plays music constantly if he's not generating it himself. In his office in Music Hall, he has thousands and thousands of CDs, cassettes and records spilling off shelves. "I've lost count," he says with a laugh. "But, it is important to take in as much (music) as you can so you can say your own thing with your own material."

Shearer and NMSU alum Darrell Partin, recently signed for a solo CD project to be cut in July. Partin is the staff pianist with the Washington D.C. Navy Band, one of the highest music positions in the military for performing artists.

An upcoming performance will pair Shearer playing a concerto with the NMSU percussion ensemble on April 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Edith and F.E. Atkinson Recital Hall. This concert will feature 20th century work and deviates slightly from work Shearer normally performs.

To learn more about Shearer or to purchase an album or tracks visit The Great American Tuba Show MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/tubashow or download his music on iTunes.