Senior Spotlight: Cortez Daniel


Photo: Tanner Krueger/The Simpsonian

by Blake Carlson, Staff Reporter

Q: Where are you from?
A: Riverdale, Georgia. About 15 minutes outside of Atlanta.

Q: How did you get to Simpson?
A: Dr. Bernard McDonald came down for a recruiting trip and heard a performance I was in.

Q: What is your major?
A: I major in music education.

Q: Would you say that music is your biggest passion?
A: Yes, I really like writing and creating music. It is my go-to. I am a jazz musician; I am constantly improvising melodies. I am also a composer, and I love finding opportunities around Des Moines.

Q: Do you play in your own band as well?
A: Yes, we are called the Black Notes. It is a five-person group now. Saxophone, drums, guitar, vocals and piano. We have been playing now since my sophomore year. It started as myself, LewElla Riker and Zach Howarth just playing around, and now we are taking it to the next level. We are starting to get gigs across Indianola and Des Moines.  

Q: Where are you currently student teaching?
A: I am student teaching at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. It is fun learning how to teach children who need more attention, but also students who are very gifted and don’t need any attention at all. It’s been all about finding that right balance.  

Q: Was there a specific moment in your life when you knew music was what you wanted to do?
A: It was in elementary school when we were learning the Star-Spangled Banner, and I started singing it and I was like, “Oh man, I sound pretty good.” So then I started trying out for the county musicals in Georgia and getting into the elementary school choirs. I just continued doing that throughout middle school where I learned to read music, and then I went to performing arts school in high school. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a music director and I wanted to learn how to play the piano. I wanted to just make music every day of my life.

Q: What is your favorite Simpson memory?
A: Most of my favorite memories have to do with the relationships that I have made. Being a music major is difficult because you are around the same people over and over again. There are rehearsals that can be frustrating. Just those times where I think I am the only person who is frustrated and upset, but then turning to the person next to me, and we are all feeling the same thing. Or becoming the choirmaster for the operas and seeing the look on my peers’ faces when they are learning things and mastering it. That is always a great moment.

Q: Where do you see yourself going from here?
A: I hope to be teaching in Des Moines this next year. I have been applying for jobs in high schools and elementary schools. I will continue to gig around Des Moines and Indianola. I recently made connections with some directors in Des Moines, so I hope to maybe collaborate with those kinds of people to direct plays and operas. We will just see what happens.