EU Alumni Perspective: Eric Patterson
Name: Eric Patterson
Graduation Year: 1994
Major: Music Education and Biblical Studies
Current Position: Executive Vice President of the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, DC; Retiring in 2021 from: Commander, Air National Guard Band of the Southwest, Joint Reserve Base-Ft. Worth, Texas (rank: Lieutenant Colonel) [note: this is a part-time reserve position]
City and State: I have served in the California (1996-2011) and Texas (2001- 2021) Air National Guards.
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I was a double major in Music Education and Biblical Studies at Evangel and thought I was headed into ministry. God changed that direction half-way through my college career and I later earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Political Science.
Nevertheless, from 1995-1998 I served as a tenured, public high school band director near San Diego, CA and continued on as a church musician and then Air National Guard Band commander from 1996 to the present. I studied conducting at the graduate level with Heichiro Ohyama at UC Santa Barbara (part-time) from 1999-2002. In 2011 I deployed to Southwest Asia during the summer, providing entertainment to military and civilian audiences in Iraq, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, and Qatar.
My military career is coming to an end after 24 years. I served as commander and conductor of the 562nd Air Force Band (ANG Band of the West Coast) for 14 years, and for the last nine years with the 531st Air Force Band (ANG Band of the Southwest). I have performed in the Middle East and in 24 U.S. states, including for five U.S. presidents and various other audiences, from the Rose Parade to Chautauqua to many of the presidential libraries and concert venues across the country. My bands produced the best concert band recordings from an Air National Guard band and for many years, my organization has led in the annual number of performances of any Air National Guard band. All along, God has allowed me to have an academic and policy career of significance, including authoring 15 books, service in three government agencies, and the cultivation of many wonderful friendships.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
When I look back on my time at Evangel, many of my favorite memories include music, from Concert Band tours across the country and in Europe, to social events like Harvest Fest, Dinner Theater, and Spring Fling. These were always shared experiences, so the meaningful moments of fun and times of worship were shared with fellow trumpet players, vocalists and instrumentalists, fellow classmates, and fellow students.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
While I love military music, as it is an opportunity to tell a patriotic story through music, the most important impact I’ve had is in empowering the next generation of musicians in the Air National Guard. Evangel opened my heart from the beginning to this truth.
I have been incredibly fortunate and would have been a far less rigorous musician and conductor had it not been for John Shows and many of the other Evangel faculty: Dr. Akins, Dr. Kolstad, and others. Every time I’ve taken the podium I’ve thought about communication, with the audience and with the ensemble. I’ve had many moments of private ministry such as praying with military members during times of suffering or loss. My time at Evangel helped develop a sensitivity for moments such as these.
Most of all, Evangel prepared me to lead and to serve with an ear listening for the Lord’s direction.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
When it comes to calling and vocation, the biggest lesson I can pass on is to trust oneself entirely to God’s leading and direction. I can testify that God has been with me over the years, especially in the lowest times. I continue to hold on to the Lord for grace and empowerment.