BY RUBEN GARCIA
EUGENE, Ore.- Students come in and out of this place everyday. All of them having one thing in common. They all lug around large black cases. In some of the cases there are cellos, violins, and guitars. In other cases there are flutes, trumpets, and clarinets. Each instrument is finely tuned and ready to be handled by one of many student musicians that call this place home.
In the midst of all the action and the melodies spiraling through the hallways at School of Music at the University of Oregon there sits a gentleman by the name of Chris Peters. When Peters is not helping the owners of the Pacific Winds Music store, he comes here to reminisce on the place he too called home for many years of his life.
Peters is in his early 60s but can pass for someone in their late 40s. His pale skin, blue eyes, and aging grey hair make him stand out in this place full of youth. His facial features resemble those of Looney Tunes character Elmer Fudd. But it’s not a double-barreled shotgun that is Peters’ weapon of choice, it is a brass cornet.
Back in the ‘70s Peters was intent on becoming an architect, but due to lack of a strong portfolio and limited funds, he had to switch up career paths. “I always had a love for music, but wanted to be an architect. I should have just followed my heart all the way through”, says Peters. Instead of following his heart, he followed his family.
Peters comes from a long line of teachers. His father was a grade school principal and his mother a grade school teacher. Teachers unlike most professionals have various breaks throughout the year and Peters opted to follow in his parents footsteps because of that. “With summers off, Christmas breaks off, spring breaks off, it was like a way of life, so at that point in time [college] I said you know I can do this,” says Peters.
His first teaching job came in 1981 in the Fern Ridge School District. During his 30 years of teaching he taught middle school band, high school choir, high school band, and general music elementary school. Then came the devastating news that has faced many education systems around the country: loss of funds.
“My middle school principal came to me and said ‘I have to cut half a person and you’re it’. What could I do? I could work half the time for half the money. I couldn’t do that. Thank goodness I had 30 years so I retired and I’ve been working at a music store full time for almost three years,” says Peters. Despite the abrupt change to his life, Peters powered through and was welcomed with good faith at the Pacific Winds Music store.
Pacific Winds Music is one of two full service music stores located in the Eugene-Springfield area. Peters works retail at the store, but is fully engaged with the community. The store services all schools in Lane County. He sees all walks of life and is the first person that a student comes to see when they need assistance with their instruments.
Peters currently plays for the Oregon Brass Society and credits his involvement in that for keeping him going strong. His favorite part about performing is “the rush of doing a good job.” His friend David Miller credits Peters’ knack at performing to the amount of time he spends practicing. “No matter how early I got to work, Chris was already there practicing on his trumpet”, says Miller.
Peters spent 30 years teaching his passion to students and the last three years helping those same kids with their instruments. He has resided in Eugene all his life and never saw any reason to leave. “I never felt like I needed to leave, everything is here.”
Those people that have had the privilege of meeting Chris are externally grateful. David Miller simply put it, “Everyone likes and admires Chris.”