STUDENT STORY – DeVaughn Aragon (Bass)
When you hear about a person with a birth defect, what’s the first thing that you think of? Probably not a musician. My name is DeVaughn Aragon, I’m a bass major at MSU Denver at DIME Denver. I was born with a brachial plexus injury – this is my story.
Brachial plexus is basically just a fancy way of saying that my left arm was completely paralyzed at birth. I had 7 reconstructive surgeries and have been going to physical therapy since I was 3 days old, and now look where I am! I can play guitar and bass and I am a student here at this outstanding university.
DeVaughn’s “Riff of The Week”
On the side, I post videos on my personal Facebook page of me playing guitar riffs that inspire me called “Riff of the Week” every Monday of every week. This activity keeps me in practice and constantly learning new material. The best part is that people really seem to be enjoying them! As a long-term goal, I want to take my experiences from DIME and apply them to the real world of the music industry.
I started playing guitar at age 12 while I was still living in La Junta, Colorado where I taught myself how to play my instrument. I have always wanted to play guitar as long as I could remember but because of my injury, I had self-doubt. After a surgery that I had 2 years prior, I felt it was time to give it a chance. I have never had any private instruction until I started here at DIME.
I am primarily a rock and metal musician, my influences are My Chemical Romance, Bullet for My Valentine, and Linkin Park. Soon after that, I discovered heavier (at the time) bands such as Bring Me the Horizon and Make Them Suffer. Now my influences range from the R&B artist, Brian McKnight to the progressive metal band, Periphery.
Traditionally I am a guitarist – I typically use a pick and play heavy metal music. At DIME I am a bassist and that is what I’ve chosen as my career path. The traditional way to play bass is with your fingers, and I am primarily a pick player.
Currently, my biggest challenge at DIME is learning how to efficiently play the bass guitar with my fingers. I do have some experience with it, but I’m not where I want to be and DIME is the perfect place to learn and push myself so that I can get to where I want to be. I’ve found that the best way to overcome any challenge when learning music techniques is to make time to practice and not procrastinate as you do in high school and then freak out when something is due.
The DIME Experience
My mother introduced me to DIME when I was going through a rut in my life. I didn’t want to go to college, but my mother showed me MSU Denver at DIME and told me that it wasn’t a traditional college and that I would love it. I decided to go because I wanted to get out of that rut, musically and emotionally. Having just lost my best friend and bandmate, Austin Sutton, in a tragic accident and I was feeling stuck. I figured that the best way to carry on his legacy was to make music my full-time career and take it seriously. When I went to do my audition I was blown away by the professionalism at DIME and how welcoming everyone was as soon as I got in.
My favorite class at DIME is the live performance workshop. It basically teaches you how to be on stage. I’ve been on stage numerous times before with bands that I’ve been a part of, but I adore the supportive and friendly environment where I feel like my peers want me to succeed.
Make It Count
My philosophy is that this is preparing you for your career, make it count. Another short-term goal is to be taken seriously by getting good grades and being a good student. On the side, I post videos on my personal Facebook page of me playing guitar riffs that inspire me called “Riff of the Week”. This activity keeps me in practice and constantly learning new material. The best part is that people really seem to be enjoying them! As a long-term goal, I want to take my experiences from DIME and apply them to the real world of the music industry.
I’d really have to say that the unity between students to be the most rewarding part of being at DIME. We all want to make it in the music industry one way or another and we work together to get there. It doesn’t matter the genre, style or experience. The academics are unlike any college I’ve ever heard of. I actually have fun going to school now. In high school, I loathed walking through the doors and feeling like I was trapped there until I graduated. Having a change of scenery is refreshing and rather inspiring.
DeVaughn’s tips for success
If you’re reading this and you’re considering becoming being a DIME student, the best advice I can give you is – come to class. Even though you’re having fun, it’s still hard work. Take it just as seriously as if you’re going to Harvard. Practice songs that you’re given in Live Performance Workshop so that the performance will go smoothly and you’ll have fun and not be thinking to yourself, “Oh no, I don’t know the song, what am I going to do”. If you’re struggling with something don’t be afraid to ask for help. All of the professors are musicians themselves and want to see you succeed in the industry.
I’d like to thank the DIME staff for giving me the opportunity to write this article and allowing me to share my experience and story.