No instrument is too big for Danford

Richard Danford III with the Marching 100.
Photo Submitted by Richard Danford III.

More than just a member of Florida A&M University’s Marching 100, Richard Danford III is a man of artistry and passion.

Danford, 22, is a graduating music major with a concentration in wind/percussion/piano performance and plays the largest instrument in the brass family: the tuba.

The Jacksonville native has been playing the tuba for eight years and can pinpoint exactly when he realized he wanted to be a performer — when he was cast as the tuba and euphonium musician in his high school’s performance of the musical “Ragtime.” That sparked a fire in Danford.

“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I decided to take it real seriously and I started really performing.”

Danford made the Florida All State Band, the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra and was granted the opportunity to play alongside his professional mentor, James Jenkins, in the Major/Minor Symphony. All before college.

As Danford’s mentor and a professional orchestral musician, Jenkins plays a vital role in the development of Danford’s career. Under Jerkins’ wing, Danford’s passion for music has turned into long nights of shedding sheet music, practicing and auditioning. In the eight years they’ve worked together, Jenkins said: “I personally enjoy him. He’s bright. He’s driven. He’s one of the students that I’ve enjoyed the most working with over the years.”

FAMU offered Danford a full scholarship, starting in the summer of 2015. Franklin Carmona, a senior music major, is one of Danford’s closest friends and has played in almost every ensemble with Danford since their freshman year as a trombone player. “We do have to have a really good chemistry in order to make really good music,” Carmona said.

Carmona has had the chance to not only practice with Danford but witness his growth and maturity on a personal level. Carmona said: “He spends a lot of nights in the practice room just shedding and perfecting the craft. From those nights, that’s when I got really close to him. Since freshman year, I got to see his progression as a musician and as a human being as well.”

Jenkins, his mentor, said: “I can see (Danford) as a performer or starting to really approach the professional realm in about five years or so.”

Sooner than expected, Danford has had the chance to perform at the professional level. Alongside Carmona, Danford is a part of the 369th experience, an infantry regimental band that travels to New York, Washington and even Paris to perform the music of the original Harlem Hell Fighters band. Danford was also accepted into the Eastern Music Festival’s Euphonium Music Institute, making him the first FAMU student in the new program starting this summer in North Carolina. With FAMU’s Marching 100, Danford has performed in Orlando at the Florida Classic and in California at the Rose Bowl.

Aspiring to play for the New York Philharmonic or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Danford is well on his way to becoming the professional orchestral musician that he’s grinding to be.

Danford said: “I want my audience to feel what I feel when I play. Every time I perform, it will be the first time and the last time that someone might be watching me, so I have to do my absolute best each time. I have to always put out my best work.”