PJ Winters

Mary Pappert School of Music

Photo of PJ WintersMusic Education

Classically Trained Musician and Passionate Mentor

PJ had originally planned to be a performance major in piano at Duquesne but decided the day of his audition to change to music education. "I entered the program on the leap of faith," he said. He is not the first member of his family to attend Duquesne as his father Paul is a graduate of the School of Business. "Duquesne is a small-knit community," he said. "I feel like the professors here genuinely want you to succeed, and will sure that you do succeed. I'm glad I chose to be here."

He is a classically trained musician who plays the piano and loves gospel. Born and raised in Manchester, on Pittsburgh's North Side, he attended Sewickley Academy. PJ's teaching career began in his sophomore year of high school, when he began giving private lessons to a variety of clients. "I've learned that it's the responsibility of those with the knowledge to pass on what they've learned from others so they may become more successful. By doing that, hopefully that cycle can continue," he said. PJ first got into music by singing in the children's choir at Allegheny Center Alliance Church and began playing piano at the age of six. He currently plays the organ at the Crafton Heights United Presbyterian Church on Sundays.

Mentorship has been an important theme throughout PJ's life. Since sixth grade PJ has been involved with the Urban Impact Foundation and looked to Matthew Mason and Lorenze Jefferson as mentors. Jefferson is a Duquesne alumnus who was also a music education major. "They taught me how to be professional, how to be prompt and they have been invested in my life spiritually as well." Remaining active with Urban Impact is important to PJ. Most recently, he got the opportunity sing the National Anthem at the Penguins game, and perform backup vocals for Jos Groban at PPG Paints Arena as part of the Urban Impact Choir.

As a music education major, PJ got his first classroom experience to student teach at Fairview and Curry Elementary Schools in Fox Chapel. Through that experience, PJ has learned to play both woodwind and brass instruments. Since this fall, he has been working at Penn Hills High School under the direction of Kala Williams. "I'm excited and I'm definitely comfortable with where I am." He goes on to say that, "in order to teach them I think there has to be a connection, especially with urban kids. They need to trust whomever is coming in to teach them."

That also extends to his time as a resident assistant (RA), first at St. Martin's Hall and now at St. Ann's Hall. "These freshmen definitely need people that can help them and show them the way, show them the ropes. And I totally did this because I genuinely want to be there for these freshmen guys. You just have to be genuine and also transparent because how are people going to open up to you if you're not open with them?," he remarked. "All I can do is just try to genuinely put forth my reputation so that when it comes down to handling a situation, they'll know that I do care for them and this is just a part of the job."

PJ is optimistic about his future, and wants to listen to his heart and God. "I entered the program (at Duquesne) on a leap of faith hoping God will lead me to where I need to be after I graduate." When one talks to PJ you can see and feel his passion for teaching, mentoring and for inner-city children. "My heart goes out to inner-city kids and urban kids in general—those who need leaders, especially strong black male leadership. In some communities, a lot of people don't have that and it's necessary." PJ went on to say that he would be happy to work in an urban school district teaching the high school choir or elementary band.