Secret lives of our profs:

Melody Moberg

Associate Professor of Music Nick Keelan is known to his jazz and trombone students as an expressive musician and passionate educator with a distinctive sense of humor. In addition to his very full Conservatory practice and teaching schedule, he devotes his limited free time to a wide variety of hobbies, including downhill skiing, motorcycle riding and flying a private plane.
Keelan has been at Lawrence for 24 years. Currently, he teaches trombone lessons, directs the Lawrence Jazz Workshop, and performs in both the Faculty Brass Quintet and the Faculty Jazz Group. He also performs in local symphonies, leads clinics throughout the Midwest and teaches private lessons outside of LU. His oldest student is 87.
However, his primary focus is and always has been teaching. Keelan is careful not to overextend himself if it means neglecting his students.
And yet, Keelan’s career at Lawrence has been nothing if not busy. He chaired instrumental music education for 20 years, taught euphonium for 15 years and taught tuba for 10. Additionally, he conducted Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Band. “Yeah, I also washed windows,” Keelan joked.
Keelan was born and raised in Texas. He received his degrees from the University of Northern Colorado and Henderson State University in Arkansas, a state liberal arts college Keelan describes as comparable to LU.
After these experiences, Keelan taught at a high school in a suburb of Denver for four years and a Texas high school for three. He was also a professional musician in Dallas.
Keelan’s favorite music is whatever he “happens to be teaching or listening to at the moment,” whether classical, jazz or world music. Currently this includes Bruckner’s “Symphony No. 4” and Hindemith’s “Symphony in B-flat,” which will be performed in the upcoming concert cycles of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, respectively.
“This music is very fun to coach,” Keelan said. “Unlike piano or violin repertoire, there isn’t a lot of trombone solo rep, so much of my favorite music is not trombone-specific.”
Keelan enjoys “the ebb and flow of teaching,” and because the music he works with on a daily basis fluctuates, his musical preferences do too.
Keelan has many interests outside of the Conservatory as well. He flew an airplane for several years as a private pilot. He is a motorcyclist, and he builds model railroads. Keelan explained that his practice regimen keeps him “busy until 11 or 12 at night, so hobbies have to come after that.”
Keelan and his wife do not have any children, but they do have four dogs. “Teaching is like having a bunch of kids anyway,” he said.
Keelan leads an alternate life as an outdoor enthusiast in Colorado. He and his wife purchased a second home there 15 years ago, which they visit every four to six weeks and during summer, spring and winter breaks. They like to dirt bike and hike mountains – “Not climb!” Keelan exclaimed, “I’m really into that walking thing.”
Primarily, though, they ski. Keelan is an avid downhill skier. His wife, who recently retired from her position as choral director of Appleton East High School, is living out of their Colorado home until April as a ski instructor. Keelan describes himself as a “commuter husband.”
In addition to wilderness adventure, Keelan likes movies that “make [him] laugh.” His current favorite is “Major League,” a “stupid baseball movie” set in Milwaukee.
Keelan is certainly a man of many talents both in and out of his work with the Conservatory, whether recounting a story in his deadpan Texas drawl, directing Jazz Workshop, teaching trombone, performing or skiing.