‘Glee’ guitarist discusses his ‘Take Chances’ tour

By Kate Daniel, Eagle Life Editor

Photo by Laura Jones Derik Nelson sings on Oct.12 for a fundraidser at the EWU music program as part of their “Take Chances” campus tour and as a favor to Sheila Woodward.
Photo by Laura Jones
Derik Nelson sings on Oct.12 for a fundraidser at the EWU music program as part of their “Take Chances” campus tour and as a favor to Sheila Woodward.

Derik Nelson, lead guitarist on the hit television show “Glee,” stopped by the EWU MPR on Oct. 11 to discuss his “Take Chances” tour and speak with students about the importance of arts education.

The following evening, Oct. 12, Nelson and his band also performed a 90-minute concert, to benefit the EWU music department.

Nelson and his team, three of whom have also been members of the “Glee” band, shared personal stories about growing up, pursuing their dreams, temporary failures and ultimate successes.

The “Take Chances” tour began about three weeks prior in Centralia, Wash. It is an effort by Nelson and his band-mates to raise $100,000 for 30 west coast schools’ music and arts programs. The money will help provide things like sheet music, instruments, instrumental repairs, stage repairs and the rights to plays and musicals.

Both events on Oct. 11 were free to EWU students, but tickets for the Oct. 12 performance were sold to the public for $15 apiece.

Sheila Woodward, chair and director of music education at EWU, explained that proceeds from the ticket sales will go towards bringing pop-music and songwriting classes to EWU, as well as helping benefit EWU’s high school arts outreach program.

Through the outreach program, Woodward said the EWU music department is working to develop and support music programs in local high schools.

EWU was the only university stop on the tour as a result of the band’s acquaintance with Woodward who once taught at the University of Southern California, where band members Nelson, Brian Hargrove and Jack Kovacs, are alumni.

Neither Nelson nor his bandmates are strangers to risk-taking.

At the Oct. 11 event, members of the group took turns explaining how their belief in taking chances became both a personal mantra and the name for their tour. While discussing his personal journey from being high school student and aspiring electrical engineer to professional composer, touring keyboardist and musician for productions such as “Glee” and “Parenthood,” Hargrove referenced the words of Anais Nin who said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

Kovacs, who plays bass for the group, and Derik Nelson’s brother Dalten Nelson, who handles videography, said that it had always been vacs, who attended college with Derik Nelson, said that the “Take Chances” tour idea came about as he, Derik Nelson and Hargrove were about to graduate college and wanted to find a way to tour without being backed by a label, and without being limited to playing at coffee houses.

Kovacs said that the group wanted to do something bigger, and came up with the idea for a fundraiser as a way to give back to the community and incentivize students to get excited about arts education without the necessity of a label.

Derik Nelson said that for him the most gratifying part of the tour has been seeing the impact on students, getting feedback from students pursuing a career in music or wanting to learn a new instrument and bringing a sense of passion to the people who listen to them.

Kovacs said that many schools may not be aware of the importance of the arts departments and that students may feel left out as a result.

“I think they’ve been affected by the fact that the school as a whole is not entirely aware of what’s going on with the theater departments, the choir departments,” Kovacs said. “It’s kind of its own niche which has its own charm to it but they, as all artists, really care to share so they find themselves kind of pigeonholed.”

Derik Nelson said that one of the reasons he has been so grateful to be a part of the “Glee” crew is that the show helps to present kids and young people with positive messages about the value of the arts and being themselves.

“What I think about a show like ‘Glee’ is it enables kids and young people to be comfortable being themselves,” he said. “I think that’s a really important thing for our generation to realize is that the best person you can be is yourself, so having support for the arts only furthers a young person’s development in understanding and realizing who they are.”

At the Oct. 11 event, Riana Nelson, Derik Nelson and Dalten Nelson’s sister and touring band manager, explained that the mission of the “Take Chances” tour is more than simply fundraising.

“The impact that we want to make on this tour is not only to help schools fundraise but really impact students to realize that it is possible to define your own success, to set goals, to bring something new to your life by taking a chance and realizing that it’s not all failure,” she said.