Jan. 16, 2018
Teaching at Biola for a little over 27 years, Mr. Feller has contributed to the development of thousands of aspiring instrumentalists at Biola as well as in a variety of high profile educational venues over the course of his career. He is the conductor of the Biola Symphonic Winds and the Biola Brass Ensemble; Mr. Feller also coaches the Honors Brass Quintet and acts as instructor for classroom courses focused on conducting, pedagogy and literature. "Mr. Feller is an extremely energetic and passionate professor who wants nothing but the best for his students," remarks alumna Savannah Faranal ('13), who served as student conductor for the Symphonic Winds during the 2012-2013 academic year. "Every class or rehearsal he leads is aimed at cultivating students' musicianship to greater glorify our Lord. His standards are planted at the peak of excellence while his office doors remain open for any assistance needed to reach these goals. It has been an absolute privilege to study with Mr. Feller … and I know that my education would be incomplete without having done so."
Education & Influences
Mr. Feller remembers growing up listening to great music with his parents, who were both amateur musicians. He recalls deciding to play trumpet after attending an L.A. Philharmonic performance with his family. Attending music camps and participating in the nationally-acclaimed Anaheim Kingsmen Drum and Bugle Corps established in him a foundation of discipline and a heart for excellence.
Major Teachers include Barbara Butler, Tony Plog, Boyd Hood, Joan LaRue and Gary Wiedeman.
Throughout his career, Mr. Feller has had strong connections to Disney. In 1993, he played lead trumpet for the nationally acclaimed Disney Symphonic Fantasy Tour, which traveled across the country performing with some of the best musicians in the industry. While he has performed in many of Disneyland's "atmosphere groups" since 1972, he is also active in their education and outreach programs. He is the head clinician for their "Disney Performing Arts, Excellence in Entertainment Workshops," a program for junior high, high school, college, and other community musicians from around the world who participate in live studio recording sessions during which they record soundtracks to clips from Disney movies. In the past, he was also the assistant director of Disney's "All American College Band," which is comprised of the best collegiate musicians in the country who perform in a 20-piece band five days a week during the summer at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.
Apart from his work for Disney, he is in demand as a guest conductor for junior high and high school honor bands in the western United States. In addition, Mr. Feller frequently appears as a clinician for workshops and as an adjudicator for band festivals. At seminars, he has spoken numerous times to present his lecture, "Band Aids: Fixing All Those Annoying Habits Your Students Have Perfected By Replacing Them with Concepts That Lead to Better Musicianship." Being in contact with thousands of students throughout his career, Mr. Feller is aware of the tremendous responsibility laid upon him in his position of authority. "God's Word says we as leaders (teachers) will be held to a higher level of accountability (Heb. 13:17)," he remarks, "so knowing you are responsible directly to Him for what you are doing usually keeps you pretty humble."
As a trumpet player, Mr. Feller has participated in many ensembles throughout the United States — often playing as principal trumpet — including:
Conducting and playing trumpet has taken him across the globe as an ambassador for his country and for the Lord Jesus. He was a founding member of Gabriel Brass, a trumpet trio with a four-piece rhythm section who had the honor of representing the United States in North Korea, South Korea and China. For the past two years, he has traveled to China alongside other Biola faculty members Dr. George Boespflug and Marlin Owen; he had the opportunity to perform as a trumpet soloist with the Changsha Symphony Orchestra in addition to recitals. He has a standing offer to return to China to perform in the future. An article describing their visit may be found here.
As a performer, Mr. Feller offers his time and talents to the Lord on a regular basis. "Every time I sit down to practice trumpet, before I play a note, I dedicate that time to the LORD, asking Him to take it and use it to make me the trumpet player He wants me to be." He notes that growth is not always an easy process. "Sometimes that's frustrating because His timetable doesn't seem to coincide with my timetable. If we consecrate and redeem that time for His glory, how could it be time wasted?" His passion for music stems from feeling God's pleasure when he plays, "or at least," he adds, "I feel pleasure playing for Him."
Faith in Action
Finding the intersections between his faith and his music making has been a life-long pursuit for Mr. Feller. For over 10 years, he was involved with "The Continental Brass and Singers," a traveling Christian group comprised of a 20-voice choir and 17-piece big band; he was involved in performing over 2000 concerts with them in 30 countries worldwide. Mr. Feller enjoyed playing trumpet for three tours and then serving as tour director for seven years. Participating in the "Continentals" caused him to realize that his musical life and spiritual walk could work in tandem for God's glory. Mr. Feller recalls this experience vividly: "I was sitting in the back of a dank stone church in Zagreb Yugoslavia (now Croatia) on a Continental tour during a Sunday morning service and I literally felt the Holy Spirit descend on my body…It was at that instant I realized I could have a spiritual life and a musical life at the same time. It changed my perspective on what I wanted to do with music."
Now, Mr. Feller walks alongside his students as they have similar transforming experiences during the Symphonic Winds' trip to Romania every other year. In 2002, he accompanied the Brass Quintet to Romania in order to begin a relationship with Heart2Heart International, and in 2009, he returned again with a larger group of students from the Symphonic Winds. The students are there to do "anything" (as Mr. Feller says), which includes holding babies in the Baby Hospital, teaching private music lessons on instruments, playing frisbee or soccer, talking and giving hugs, just to name a few. When asked why he thinks this experience is an important one for his students, he replies, "Just go and hold one of those precious babies for a few hours and you will know the answer! Your heart will never be the same." He notes that he has seen God completely change students because of their experiences there, and being able to go every other year is a precious experience for him as well. One of the things he hopes his students glean from their experience at Biola is that they would see that God can use them to impact the world. He remarks, "Many times we can go to places others cannot, just because music is the tool for ambassadorship."
Mr. Feller has been teaching at Biola since 1987 and served for five years as a part-time faculty member before becoming a full-time professor. For Mr. Feller, seeing the student's growth in enthusiasm for their craft is one of the chief blessings of being involved in this community. He says, "There is something different about Biola students. I hear it all the time from our adjunct faculty, many of whom teach at numerous universities around the area. I sense a kindred spirit with our students. There is a seriousness and a striving for excellence that I love." He also says of his fellow faculty members, "There is a tremendous respect for each other and great appreciation for their talents. That's what helps make Biola so unique!"
He is especially active in training the students who desire to enter the educational field after graduation. He says, "Obviously, they will have an influence on young people. Our prayer is that they will have a positive influence musically so they will have credibility spiritually." He sees the integration of faith and learning as an amazing foundation from which to build the rest of their careers and their lives, and his desire is that students in the Conservatory would leave with a commitment to musical integrity and a heart for reaching young people.
Among his students, Mr. Feller has gained the reputation of being a professor that coaches them toward wanting to be excellent. He is adamant that there is no tolerance for mediocrity. "Once you hear what music played at the highest level sounds like, you just can't settle for anything less. I was fortunate to have played in some of the best collegiate musical ensembles during my education, and, as a professional trumpet player, sitting next to some really great players reminds you of how moving music can be. How can we offer anything but our very best to the LORD?"