It's common to wonder how professors spend their free-time and Dr. Michael Pendowski, assistant music professor, jazz ensemble director and saxophone instructor, has much more going on than the occasional jazz combo and late night rehearsal.
Pendowski is currently the saxophone instructor for the Department of Music and his students speak very highly of him.
Pendowski may not be a professor you see daily or will ever see, but odds are you have heard his music.
If you've ever played NCAA football games or Madden football games from the early 2000, you've heard Pendowski. If you've sat down with popcorn to watch "Groundhog Day" with friends, you've heard Pendowski. If you've gotten your hands on the "Walking Dead" video game from 2012, you've heard Pendowski.
That is a brief list of places where his musical footprints can be found.
Aside from Pendowski's world-renowned compositions, his overwhelming musical talent in performance has captivated audiences around the world.
Pendowski's musical journey began at the age of six when his parents decided he should take piano, to help his "hands and coordination."
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However, learning saxophone, Pendowski's primary instrument of trade, was not a self-chosen path at first.
"My father was a big-band freak and he said, 'Alright, you're going to play the saxophone'," Pendowski said.
Pendowski took it to heart. Fast forward to Pendowski's high school years where his pursuit of musical excellence was strong. He began experimenting with composing and arranging jazz tunes.
Pendowski slowly developed a reputation within the genre, and while in college he began to immerse himself in Jazz even further. This led him to begin ghost writing around 14-15 marching band shows a year.
He took a job as a band director for a year after he graduated Northwestern University, he began to rethink his decision to enter the realm of music education.
"About the second day, I realized this is not something I should be involved with... I didn't like it," Pendowski said. "I liked the students, but I didn't like all the other things that come along with being a teacher."
Pendowski found himself writing for a big-band in Chicago when he received an invitation to arrange professionally. He quit his teaching job, and became more involved in performance and composition.
"My career as a writer got bigger," Pendowski said. "By the time I was four or five years out of college, I was working for studios a lot."
Pendowski became a very busy man, between writing and performing. His name was spreading like wildfire.
The time Pendowski spent composing in high school payed off, because his pieces become something he is internationally known for.
Pendowski did not simply stay within the walls of a recording studio. He has performed in venues all around the world, performing with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole and many more.
One might wonder why a man of such a reputation backed with the many international connections he has, chooses to stay at Auburn University.
Pendowski said there was an opportunity to teach and he took it.
As the "jingle business" declined, Pendowski found himself looking elsewhere to continue his career.
"The business just wasn't as good," Pendowski said. "You always have to keep your options open...so I went back into teaching."
After taking the teaching position at Auburn, he said he found the city similar to home. Pendowski stressed that one key success tool is to remain flexible.
"Be open," Pendowski said.
Pendowski and those that listen to his compositions find a variety that isn't easily overlooked.
While some are jazz, others include genres such as tribal, cabaret, western or even electronic.
This is a direct result of Pendowski's philosophy that you have to "be open," not just to new opportunities, but also to trying new thing.
Pendowski has a devoted group of students and he reminds them to continue to surprise those around them.
"[Be] a fanatic, passionate, crazy person about what you're thinking about," Pendowski said.
Dr. Michael Pendowski's loves interacting with the students during lessons and the student's respect for him spreads thick. Pendowski said he genuinely cares about his students, values the art of education, sees the world as full of opportunity and hopes his students will see it the same way.
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