Composer and Jazz Musician Doug Ragon Finds Creative Freedom at WSU

For Doug Ragon, a journey that began with piano lessons at age 5 has blossomed into a multifaceted career in music composition and jazz performance. Now, as a graduate student at Wichita State University's School of Music, Ragon is honing his craft and preparing to make his mark on the music world.


The composition program, led by Dr. David MacDonald, was what attracted me most. I've had lots of freedom to create music that uniquely expresses myself.
Doug Ragon


Ragon, a composer, jazz trombonist, and jazz pianist, traces his passion for music back to his childhood in Newton, Kansas. After earning his Bachelor of Music in Composition at Kansas State University in 2022, he sought to further his education and artistic development closer to home. Wichita State University's music program and the vibrant music scene of the Wichita community made it the perfect fit for his graduate studies.

Under the guidance of Dr. David MacDonald, Ragon found the ideal environment to explore his musical interests and push the boundaries of his creativity. "The composition program, led by Dr. David MacDonald, was what attracted me most," Ragon explains. "I've had lots of freedom to create music that uniquely expresses myself."

One of Ragon's most ambitious projects during his time at WSU was his master's thesis—a suite for jazz big band infused with influences from metal music. This endeavor showcased his compositional prowess and provided valuable real-world experience as he organized performances in the community, including a memorable show at Walker's Jazz Lounge.

Reflecting on his academic and artistic journey, Ragon emphasizes the importance of self-discovery and authenticity. "Rather than being molded into a type of person/musician I am not, I've been encouraged to create the music that I want to create," he says. This ethos of individuality and expression has empowered Ragon to grow personally and professionally.

His role as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) in the composition and theory area is central to Ragon's growth. Tasked with teaching Music Theory 2, Ragon appreciates the trust and autonomy afforded to him. "The amount of independence and responsibility I've been given in my GTA position has helped me to become more confident in my teaching abilities," he notes.

Beyond the classroom, Ragon has embraced opportunities to perform and teach in the Wichita community, solidifying his reputation as a versatile and accomplished musician. "All these opportunities to perform in the community have helped me to grow tremendously as a player," he says.

Looking ahead, Ragon has ambitious plans for his future. He aspires to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in composition and ultimately teach at the university level. Additionally, he aims to record a big band album with his ensemble, the Ragin' Swing Machine, and launch a power metal band.

As Ragon prepares to graduate this spring, he reflects on the transformative impact of his time at WSU. "My master's degree from WSU will help open opportunities for me in my career as a composer," he says. "It will also help shape my career as a teacher."

For prospective students considering WSU's music program, Ragon offers sage advice: "Communicate with the faculty at WSU about exactly what you want to get out of your degree, and they will be more than happy to help tailor the experience to your individual needs."

In the world of music, Doug Ragon is not just a student—he's a visionary artist poised to leave an indelible mark on the industry.


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