Trees rustle in the wind, and nature goes silent listening to the gentle plucking of guitar strings in Justin Hatt’s arrangement of “What a Wonderful World.”
Justin Hatt, a 2019 alumnus of Olivet College from Lansing, graduated with a degree in music. He focused his studies in guitar performance with an emphasis on classical music. While a student at Olivet, Justin was also involved with Alpha Lambda Epsilon, the College Choir, Jazz Band and, of course, playing guitar as much as he could. He is currently attending Eastern Michigan University for graduate studies in classical guitar performance.
“Immediately after graduation, I started gigging a lot and tried to find every single opportunity I could make or find,” Justin said. “I had a gig where I was playing at a grocery store every weekend — Horrocks’s Farmers Market right in Lansing. I would come in every Saturday and Sunday and just play for about four hours.”
Justin regularly played at Horrock’s for almost a year, and he’s since then landed a job teaching guitar and ukulele at an academy in his hometown. He teaches a wide array of students, including those from age 6 to 76.
“I really enjoy teaching the next generation of musicians. I have many great students which are all very excited about studying music,” he said. “I love seeing their smiling faces when they are learning a new piece. It’s really rewarding. I feel like I am inspiring the next generation.”
Justin’s education at Olivet helped propel him into the music sphere. “I would have countless conversations with my guitar teacher, Chris Rollins, about how to carve out a living with playing the guitar. I owe great respects to Dr. Tim Flynn and Dr. Ramona Kime, of the Olivet College music program, for all their one-on-one pep talks about how to get into grad school, how to prepare for auditions and how to utilize my practice time in the most efficient ways possible,” he said. “I still communicate with my former teachers very regularly a few times a semester. I’ll text or email them about my journey. I always tell them my journey is far from over, for I have so much to learn in this life about the guitar and music. I hold my professors from Olivet very deeply in my heart.”
Justin has always emphasized the importance of building a social media presence and brand. Even in college, he began branding himself on Facebook. “Immediately after graduation, I made my own website with information about myself, with videos and recordings and, of course, contact information,” he said. He currently posts on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to share his abilities and network.
“I began posting covers of certain classical pieces and posting my own arrangements of famous pop songs,” he said. “I have started building a following, and because of it I’ve obtained some great brand deals where I’ve worked with some really cool companies. I have also obtained some students from YouTube!”
Justin is currently endorsed by Kremona Guitars, a company that makes hand-made guitars in Europe. “I feel so blessed to be playing these really fine, expensive instruments,” he said. Justin enjoys all kinds of music, and he performs with different people across a wide range of music. “My musical tastes are really all over the board. I think we as musicians shouldn’t limit ourselves to one niche. As for me, I want to do it all!” he said.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has stood by my side in my musical journey and all of the support I’ve had over the years — it means a lot. I hope to come back to OC and maybe even do my master’s recital on campus,” he said. “After my time is done at EMU, as crazy as it sounds, I want to get more education. I guess I really enjoy school just that much — which was never the case in high school. But this is music.. I don’t ever want to stop learning! My goal is actually to switch gears a bit and start immersing myself in jazz guitar and world studies. I enjoy learning about music, and I think the best way to learn is to continue to study with experts.”
Justin hit the ground running after graduation and never stopped. His passion for music continues to inspire others to pursue their dreams. “While at college, his dedication to music always amazed me. His passion and humility for his craft left a permanent imprint on my life. I knew on the first day I met him that he would succeed in the music world,” said senior Leah Miller, a friend of Justin’s from his time at Olivet.
“I hope, if even for a moment, I can take away some of the negative aspects of what’s going on in the world and maybe bring you a smile or a positive thought. If I can do that, I‘ve done my job. With today’s challenges, I think it’s really easy to lose focus on the most important things about life, what’s really important about us as humans and what we do in our day-to-day interactions,” Justin said at the end of his arrangement of “A Wonderful World.”
Follow Justin’s social media platforms to support him on his musical journey:
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/justinhattmusic/
And, be sure to check out his entire senior recital from 2019 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1374&v=7ucyXRRF6MA
Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature was written by senior Leah Miller, marketing and communications student intern. She is a writing and history double major and a music minor, a field commander of the Marching Comets and a member Alpha Lambda Epsilon Literary Society. After college, she aspires to use her writing to educate people about different cultures and work to normalize embracing differences, potentially in a field related to intercultural relations.