Mercer Artist: saxophonist Justin Furness

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Elizabeth Tate / Cluster Staff

Elizabeth Tate / Cluster Staff

Justin Furness, a freshman at Mercer, has already made a positive impression through thorough involvement as a music education major. Every day, he arrives to class sporting a tie and suspenders. His immaculate style, however, is not the only attribute that sets Furness apart from his peers. Furness, a saxophonist, is a talented and driven musician who often practices over two hours per day in order to perfect his skills. As a middle school student, Furness began learning to play the saxophone for his band class. He was instantly hooked. “I had this image in the back of my head of myself leaning up against a lamp post on a street corner, playing jazz on the saxophone,” he said. “That’s when I decided ‘this is what I’m going to play.’” On top of his classes and practice schedule, Furness participates in the Mercer Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble. “Working with Dr. Monty Cole [director of Jazz Band] is amazing,” said Furness. “We’ve got a very strong saxophone section. I love playing with such great musicians. What more could I ask for?”

Though Furness is currently on track to become a band director, his original plans for the future were different. “I always wanted to be a Marine. That was my boyhood dream,” said Furness. However, after a motorcycle crash during his senior year of high school left him with severe injuries, Furness experienced a great turning point in his life. “I learned to live every day like it’s my last, because I know that it could be,” said Furness. “Now I know that the person I want to be is the person I am every day.” With this sentiment in mind, he was inspired to pursue music as a profession. Furness said, “That’s when I said to myself, ‘Well, I’ve been playing the saxophone for seven years.’ It had been a big part of my school career, so I thought, ‘Why not make it my career?’”

Now that Furness has spent a semester at Mercer, his future goals are more defined than ever, and he looks forward to helping young musicians discover their talents. “I want to be able to give my students an opportunity they wouldn’t normally have,” said Furness. “Who knows? Some of them could go on to become professionals. For me, it’s all about giving my students a good start.” Furness plans to continue to perform as often as possible after graduation. “I want to play on a cruise line for a year. I think that would be a really cool gig,” said Furness. “After that, I want to play with a few different groups for a year or two before I settle down and start teaching.” During his time at Mercer, Furness will continue to strive for excellence in every aspect of his life. “I wear my finest clothes every day to remind myself to be the finest person I can be,” said Furness, “All I have to do is roll my sleeves up and look at the scars [from the accident] – it’s a memory that keeps me pushing forward to become the best person and musician possible.”

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