Wayne Goins: Born to play, share talent

Wayne Goins, director of jazz studies and guitar, discusses the theory behind the songs he's teaching to students at a private guitar lesson in his office on Oct. 5, 2016. Goins is a distinguished professor and has an accomplished career performing music, publishing articles and writing five books. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Born and raised in Chicago, where blues followed him wherever he went, Wayne Goins, professor of music and director of jazz studies, said he was born with the desire to make the guitar his partner in life.

Goins said he was born to be a musician, a guitarist specifically. The inspiration came from his musically-inclined family as his father was a harmonica player and his uncle was the head of a band called “Jimmy Jones Blues.” At 12 years old, Goins said he performed professionally for the first time with his uncle’s band.

“Every Christmas, all I wanted was a toy guitar,” Goins said. “Finally when I was about 10 years old, my uncle gave me my first real guitar, and I instantly learned how to play it. I’m a natural guitarist.”

Being an author

Aside from being a professor and a director, Goins said he is in the process of writing a biography about Taj Mahal, professional musician, as well as reviews for a magazine.

Goins said he met Mahal when he came to perform at McCain Auditorium in 2013. Although he had never heard of Mahal before then, Goins said he was immediately blown away by the musician’s talent.

The same day Goins said he asked Mahal to allow him to write his biography, and it is set to be published in the fall of 2017.

Goins said he also writes articles for Living Blues magazine, and this month’s issue of the magazine is going to feature one of his articles about Mahal.

“It is funny how life works sometimes,” Goins said. “I wrote a deep article about (Mahal) for this issue of the magazine. I’m very excited.”

Sharing his knowledge

In addition to Goins’ love for music and writing, Goins said his passion is teaching.

As passionate as he is about teaching others about music, however, Goins said he believes that the best lessons in life are the ones not related to the subject he teaches but rather to life itself.

“Teaching is a wonderful thing because it gives you the opportunity to share your gift with others, to spread it around,” Goins said. “My goal as teacher is to serve as guide, mentor and example of what is possible if you pursue your dream with complete dedication and passion.”

Goins said being an educator requires a lot of responsibility since educators set an example for their students. Still, Goins said when you get to see that you have touched and had an impact on so many lives, it is the most gratifying experience you can get.

Goins said he has been the director of the jazz department at Kansas State since 1998, and was named a distinguished scholar this year.

“To know you are receiving the highest honor the university can give you,” Goins said. “I am so grateful and I feel the obligation to continue to live up to the standards and do more good research.”

Jacob Wright, junior in music education and performance, said Goins is truly passionate about what he does and that everyone appreciates it during rehearsal times.

“He pushes us, but he pays a lot of attention to details, so he is able to tell us what we have missed and how can we improve,” Wright said. “He’s very open to ideas. He is the best mentor I’ve ever had, not only on a professor-student level, but as professional musician and as a person, too.”

Timothy Roberts, sophomore in music education and another one of Goins’ students, said he met Goins in his last year of high school when he came to visit K-State’s music professors before making a decision on where to attend college.

“He introduced me as ‘this band’s bass player next year,'” Roberts said. “He had a huge impact on my decision to attend K-State.”

Roberts said Goins’ talent is indescribable and that he performs like no other.

“I’ve never known a guitar player who can do half of the things he can with those six strings,” Roberts said. “He has made a name for himself in the jazz world as a performer, educator and even historian. His mind is filled with so much material it would be impossible for him not to succeed.”

Goins said one of his most memorable students was Ennis Cosby, Bill Cosby’s son. They developed a mentor-mentee relationship, and when Cosby finished school and went back to California in 1997, he was murdered.

After Cosby’s sudden death, his father came to K-State to perform in McCain Auditorium. Goins said he immediately felt the need to talk to him in person to let him know how much he cared about his son.

“I met him along with my family,” Goins said. “We talked for like half an hour. He was an awesome guy. We didn’t know back then everything we know now about him and I hate that this is the reality, but for me that guy who spent his time hanging out with me and my family, that was the Bill Cosby I knew.”

Performing internationally, recording locally

Goins said he has also performed internationally.

In 2007, Goins and his band performed in South America, and has also performed in cultural centers and for the governments of countries like Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Goins said he is currently working on the development of his new band “Doc’s Ukulele Duo Orchestra.” The band is made up of only ukulele players and was inspired by the time he spent with Mahal and his band in Hawaii this summer.

Goins said he also owns a record label in Manhattan called Little Apple Records, where he has recorded some of his work and the work of other students and friends.

Goins said he believes he is lucky to have the opportunity to make a living doing what he loves and what he is talented at and plans on continuing his research, teaching and performing for more years to come.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get,” Goins said.