Bodybuilding bassoonist to perform at GV

Courtesy Photo /
Guest Artist Jeffrey McCray

Courtesy Photo / Guest Artist Jeffrey McCray

Elijah Brumback

Competitive bodybuilding and playing the bassoon have, at first thought, absolutely nothing in common. One can only wonder what kind brain chemistry brings these two very separate skills to such a high-level mastery in the body of Jeffery McCray.

McCray is the assistant professor of bassoon at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, in the same reality, is also a competitive bodybuilder. He will share his musical talents with the Grand Valley State University community on Sunday.

When he is not vibrating the reeds of his instrument or instructing the same action, he is conditioning what some in the muscle business might call his temple, or body.

“The things I do seem to have no real connection, but when you think about it they actually have more in common than you might think,” McCray said. “A lot of what I do with music is influenced by what I do in competitive body building.”

He said it is the practice and planning in bodybuilding that translates to the way he approaches music and also the way he teaches it to his students.

“If you apply yourself with the same dedication to something like training your body to the act of learning music, the result is the same in achieving your goals,” McCray said.

While the U.S. government continually reports that many Americans are too obese and generally undereducated according to some hard scientific facts, McCray as a human being stands as what the U.S. government might label as an acceptable American.

“Students, especially a batch of freshman usually don’t know what to think when they walk into class and see me standing there,” he said. “It’s funny because I may seem intimidating to them and I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘what is this guy going to teach us.’”

His achievements have all been documented in both pursuits. The records show his aptitude for muscle building, having received third place in both the 2008 Jr. USA Bodybuilding Championships and the Muscle Mayhem Championships in the light heavyweight division in Nebraska. As for his accomplishments with the bassoon, McCray has graced many distinguished ensembles and symphony orchestras as the principal bassoon or utility bassoon player. He currently performs with the Lincoln (NE) Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra.

“A lot the lessons I’ve learned are in time management,” he said. “It’s hard to balance the two but it’s something that I care about and have to do.”

The nature of McCray’s interest in becoming a bodybuilder is not a sordid story of a young boy bullied in high school because he liked classical music. Instead, as a former wrestler, McCray was interested in keeping fit while he attended college thus he took to bodybuilding through the encouragement of fellow gym members.

“I realized when I got to college to pursue music it would be impossible to have to think about it all the time,” McCray said. “I had to have something to break up the time.”

McCray’s father was the wrestling coach at his high school when he was growing up and it was this instilled physical activity that eventually brought him to where he is now in both music and bodybuilding.

He began playing the piano at a very young age and while in high school in Colorado Springs he was recognized as one of the top bassoon players in the state.

“I thought there might be something to this,” McCray said. “So I kept pursuing it.”

McCray received his doctorate form Michigan State University and he said coming back to GVSU is something like a homecoming for him.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some of my old colleagues and seeing some of the familiar places.”

McCray will perform Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall at the Performing Arts Center on the GVSU Allendale Campus.

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