University Communications

The Newsletter for Marshall University        December 14, 2011

Profile: David Daniel

Music circles his life; it’s inexorably woven into the fabric of his being. You could almost say he is addicted to how it shapes his soul.

David Daniel has an unabashed love of music. He has speakers in every room of his house. That’s every single room, even the bathroom, he emphasizes, and near-permanently attached earphones that keep the tunes flowing. But it’s a freeing relationship, opening him up to potential depths he otherwise might not have imagined, he believes.

His work title is cumbersome. Officially he’s an Application Systems Analyst Programmer Senior in Computing Services, but unofficially he’s known as one of two people on campus who handle Banner securities, he says. “We also do Banner upgrades, and the application software that’s attached to Banner, so it’s like an IT project manager.” He came to the position well prepared with two Marshall degrees, a B.A. in Management Information Systems and a M.A. in Technology Management. The choice of a career path really wasn’t all that surprising. He’s super organized, with a penchant for planning, whose friends sometimes give him a hard time about how organized he actually is. He takes their teasing with good humor. “I accept that. Computers allow me to plan, to be organized and to be a little OCD, but that’s who I am.” he says cheerfully.

After completing his undergraduate degree he went back to Ashland, Ky., where he grew up, to work with his parents in a small company they own there, mainly upgrading their computer systems. A five-year stint in Marshall’s Department of Human Resources followed before he transferred to Computer Services nearly six years ago.
But contact with others is greatly important to Daniel. “I like what I’m doing now; one of the good things about technology management is that you can do more of a managerial role of technology instead of a singular in-depth approach to it. But the best thing is that I don’t have to sit in a room all the time, I get to go out and talk with people, work with colleagues, go to meetings, have contacts with others. I like to try to demystify the technology aspects for those who aren’t into technology and to show them an easier way to do their work. With computers, it’s not just about the machines and the technology, it’s really about the people who use them and that’s what I enjoy most.”

Actually his fondness for working with others has led him into the classroom where he has taught classes part-time for IT for the past seven years. “Getting into teaching has opened up a whole new world for me,” he says. “Dealing with the students has been so rewarding. I like teaching them the fundamentals of what they’re going to be using in their classes because virtually all of their classes will involve computer use in some way.” In fact he enjoys teaching so much he’s considering going back to school at some point to earn a Ph.D.

But it is music—all kinds, jazz, rock, R&B, rap, folk, indi, you name it—that his life revolves around and this self-taught guitarist/drummer/singer embraces it all with a joyful fervor. Surprisingly, he didn’t start playing an instrument until he was in college. “I got a guitar and I still have it; I’ve never stopped playing. Then I got a drum set. I love the drums, you put everything you have into it, you can open so much of yourself to emotion and creativity. Playing drums just came to me, I could feel it. I feel the beat of the drums, I like to feel what composers are trying to say in a song. I also try to go to three or four concerts a year. I love to see bands but also to see the crowd reacting to them. You need to keep an open mind, you might find something totally unexpected that you’ll really love.”

And Daniel speaks eloquently about his passion for music, likening it to painting. “I would like to be a painter because you can express so many emotions through a canvas but music is like that. You listen and try to figure out what the artist is trying to say in a song.” That delicious “aha” moment, when he feels what they are portraying, is well worth waiting for, he confides.

Never pursuing music as a career, he has preferred instead to be part of a praise band at his church, Second Baptist Church in Ashland, occasionally joining friends to play at other churches and getting together regularly with other musician friends for spirited jam sessions. He was flattered but apprehensive when a good friend asked him to perform at his wedding. “It turned out to be a large wedding and among the guests were several musician friends so I knew I couldn’t make a mistake; they would know, I couldn’t cover up a mistake. I sang and played but I was very nervous because performing in front of other musicians is nerve-racking. It was intimidating but fun.”

One of the high points of the past few years was the European trip he made with three friends over four years ago. It was strictly a low budget, no frills tour, he says, with the four often crammed into tiny hotel rooms where they took turns sleeping on the floor. But the trip took a serendipitous turn for the buddies one morning in Amsterdam. Going to a small café for breakfast, they found it deserted at that time of the morning except for two other customers. Imagine their astonishment when one of the customers turned out to be American music icon Willie Nelson, who was there with his manager. There was no mistaking that weathered visage. “We couldn’t believe our eyes; we were so excited. Here we were halfway around the world and there sat Willie Nelson having breakfast. And he was so friendly, so kind. We chatted and he wanted to know about us, where we were from, then he readily agreed to pose for pictures with us. What a thrill that was for all of us. The waitress had no idea who he was ... we were like, are you kidding us?”

And these days another of the energetic Daniel’s passions is fitness, and he can be found every day at noon at the rec center working out. Together with his girlfriend, Haley Holmquist, he often runs in 5k charity races and the couple particularly likes the ones benefiting animal causes such as the Little Victories shelter in Huntington, because they have a shelter dog themselves. “You get so much out of these races; you benefit physically and mentally but you also meet other people and you help out a good cause. You have to have these 'little victories' in life to keep you centered on what’s important,” he reflects.

“Haley is an amazing runner. We do a lot of exercising together. Through exercise you can escape to a different world, because your body and your mind both react to exercise. She originally came to Marshall from Florida on a diving scholarship and now works at St. Mary’s hospital in radiology. She helps keep me centered. My spirituality is a big part of my life so I like to push myself to be enlightened ... even though I am a Christian, as a pastime I read books on Buddhism and as well as other enlightening subjects just to have a better understanding of the outside world of other people. I try to keep an open mind and spirit; music is just one of the many ways that helps me dive deep into myself. One thing I’ve found is that you can accept other people’s opinions even when they don’t agree with you.”

And having good role models in his parents, Earl and Helen Daniel, and good relationships with his brother, Chris, and sister, Rebecca, has certainly helped his spiritual journey, he says. Soon he’s planning to emulate his father, who has a pilot’s license and owns a small plane, by taking flying lessons and earning his own license.

His mantra, which his music helped develop, is to be open and not close-minded, he says. “An experience may be good or bad but it opens up opportunities so that you can go down new roads, ones that you might not have taken before. You need to do what makes you happy. I love what I do; I strive to not be judgmental or cynical. Just be mindful of it, take the moments in your life and just appreciate them.”


Lower Photo: David Daniel (right) and his friend Wes Thompson (left) met singer Willie Nelson (center) in Amsterdam in 2008. Photo courtesy of Wes Thompson.

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