Taking on Tennessee

Bontrager Accepted into Belmont


Emily Brandt

Practicing his electric guitar, senior Seth Bontrager plays tunes in the jazz room during seminar on Jan. 17. Seth practices anywhere from an hour to two hours a day. Photo Credit Emily Brandt

Beginning in the fourth grade after getting a guitar, senior Seth Bontrager’s passion for music unfolded, fueled further by his participation in the school band as a percussion player. With a passion so intense, Bontrager applied and was accepted into Belmont University, located in Nashville, Tenn., also known as “Music City”.
While Bontrager enjoys both the guitar and playing percussion, he feels that he excels at guitar and plans to focus on those skills at Belmont.
“I kind of use drums as a break from guitar if I am ever like in a rut or something or kind of get tired playing. That kind of happens sometimes with any instrument I think, where you just get tired of the instrument so you take a break and then you come back and it’s more fun again,” Bontrager said.
Bontrager posts videos of himself playing guitar on his Instagram account as a way of gaining recognition. In addition to acquiring attention from social media, students might recognize Bontrager from his performances of the “Star Spangled Banner” at assemblies and sporting events, an idea of his that originated in middle school. Band director Greg Bergman said he feels a special sense of gratification watching Bontrager perform.
“I know that he has done a great job, so I immediately said ‘yes’ when he asked about doing it again this year,” Bergman said. “I recently told the band that I get an immense feeling of pride when I see them performing at a level that is often reserved for college musicians and beyond. That was the case listening to Seth perform in a packed gymnasium.”
With music being such a big part of his life, Bontrager said attending a music school had been a dream of his, although he was unaware of all the possibilities.
“I didn’t really know a music school like this existed before my dad told me about it. I was like, ‘Might as well go for it’ and then yeah, I got in,” Bontrager said.
Before visiting Belmont, Bontrager had expressed interest in both Kansas State University (KSU) and Wichita State University (WSU) for their musical programs and marching band. It was ultimately Belmont’s musical connections that set it apart from other colleges.
“I don’t know if there is really a better place [to go to] besides Nashville or a bigger city,” Bontrager said. “If you want connections and want to get money playing or whatever, just go to a bigger city and find a music scene that is actually good.”
Following his visit to Belmont, Bontrager applied for the college, writing an essay and sending in all required information. Now, all that was left to do was audition in front of a panel of professors.
“The audition was very nerve-racking. I met the head guitar instructor the day before and that was nice so he kind of knew me when I got there,” Bontrager said. “It was a lot like auditions here, like when I go and audition for the District Band and KMEA here for percussion.”
Bontrager was accepted into the university upon completing his application and audition, evoking feelings of surprise and relief.
“To me, my audition didn’t go that great because I hold myself to such a high standard, but I guess the professors felt like I had some potential.”
Despite Nashville being dubbed the ‘Country Music Capital of the World,’ Bontrager said he will be learning multiple different genres of music through the commercial music program.
“Multiple people from Nashville have told me they have everything from jazz to fusion to rock to pop. There’s all sorts of stuff out there and honestly I wouldn’t be mad if I found a gig just playing country music,” Bontrager said. “It’s kind of growing on me right now even, and I’m sure when I get there, I’ll start to enjoy it even more.”
Bontrager said he is looking forward to starting an entirely new routine and expects his first year of college to be full of changes.
“[I am most excited for] meeting new people, pretty much starting a new life actually, because I won’t know anyone when I go there,” Bontrager said. “I can make new friends, not that my friends here aren’t awesome, but just meeting new people would be great and playing alongside other great musicians as well.”
With attending Belmont and being located in the city with one of the largest music scenes in the world, Bontrager, while his career post college is undetermined, wants to pursue an occupation involving music.
“I’m not someone who thinks that far ahead, I like to take it one step at a time. If I could land a gig as a studio musician of some sort that would be cool, just playing shows every once in a while and recording music,” Bontrager said, “Maybe later on in my college career I’ll figure out that I like teaching or something and maybe I’ll go into that. Until then, I’m gonna try planting a job as a performing musician of sorts.”
Directing most students since fifth grade, Bergman said his wish for all of his students is that music remains an important part of their lives.
“Most years our graduating class includes students who will continue to study music in college; perhaps as a major or minor, or maybe just for fun,” Bergman said. “It is extra special to have a student successfully apply to and audition for a school known for its music programs.”