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Alumni Profile From Spring 2001 Fanfare
Rock hound Mock unearths rewarding musical career
If the old quiz show "What's My Line" were still around today, Stuart Mock would be the perfect guest.
Is he a geologist? Is he a musician? Is he...?
For five decades, Mock - a 1972 Purdue graduate - has been trying to answer that question himself. It's certainly common for Purdue Bands students, like Mock, to exhibit a split personality on campus with duel passions for music and academics. But career demands usually shove music into hobby status after graduation.
Not so with Mock who currently serves as principal horn with the Central City Opera, the Colorado Ballet, the Greeley (Col.) Philharmonic and fourth horn in the Boulder (Col.) Philharmonic, as well as an extra with the Colorado Symphony.
His story is a testament to the fact that creative expression and science feed one another.
"I was a rock hound as a kid, but I was also very involved in music," says Mock, who was born in Columbus, Ind., but attended high school in South Bend. He was in fifth grade when he picked up the horn for the first time.
"My first memory of music was going to an Indianapolis Symphony concert in an old gym in Columbus. One of the pieces they played had a soaring horn line. And as far what grabs you, almost every horn player you meet will say that the first time you hear it such a horn line you can't get that 'sound' out of your mind," he says.
He couldn't and didn't.
No one in his family had ever had a professional interest in music, however, "so music as a career path was sort of a foreign concept," Mock says. When a dental problem forced him to get braces, another obstacle entered the picture.
It's nearly impossible to play a brass instrument effectively with braces "so the choice (going into college) was made for me by eliminating one of the choices," he says. Mock entered Purdue as a geology major in 1968 and became the first student to graduate in the university's new curriculum in paleontology and paleoecology. To get his band fix, he initially performed with Purdue's flag corps as a freshman. When the braces came off, he quickly leapfrogged into section leadership in Concert Band, and into the AAMB's musician ranks. By his own admission, he spent a lot more time in the Band Lounge in those days than he did in the library studying geology.
Following graduation, he worked for Cummins Engine in Columbus, then got a job as a mining geologist in Wyoming. Always, he had second thoughts. "It nagged me for years. How did I know I picked the career in which I had the most potential?" Mock says.
He began to realize just how strong music's lure was when he willingly made a 194-mile round trip commute twice a week to play in the Casper (Wyo.) Symphony. "Eventually I came to the conclusion, on an emotional level, that I needed to be a horn player more than a geologist," he says.
When a music professor at the junior college in Casper went on sabbatical in 1981, they offered the temporary position to Mock, who accepted it even though it meant cutting ties to the geology industry. "I was 31 and it was now or never," he recalls.
That step persuaded him pursue a master's degree in performance at the University of Northern Colorado, then a doctorate at the University of Iowa, and a career as a freelance musician. Success has greeted him at every juncture.
Does he have any regrets about leaving geology? "No, I have no doubts I made the right choice," says Mock the musician. But it must be noted that four years ago he did say yes to an opportunity to do consulting with the oil and gas industry on a part time basis and keep his hands in his former career.
So, "I still do the same combination, but the emphasis is switched. I'm a full time musician and a part time geologist," he says.
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