Professors of SPU: Purpose through service, service through music

Professor dedicates his life to serving country and students

Isabella Tranello, Staff Reporter

Danny Helseth and his baritone. He is the head of instrumental studies at SPU and an active member of the National Guard. (Davery Bettger)

Veteran’s Day is an important day to many Americans, especially to those who have served for this country. It honors those who have made a commitment to protecting the ideals of the land we live on. It is a crucial celebration for the millions of veterans who have laid down their life or given their time to fight for freedom. 

Professor Danny Helseth, head of instrumental studies and band director at Seattle Pacific University, is one of these people honored, even though he is not technically a veteran yet. His duties so far have included 14 years in the Air Force, 4 of which were spent in active duty. He is now involved with the National Guard in Washington. 

This is less about personal achievement and a chest full of medals, and more about serving this state and country with the National Guard. I am continually humbled to be counted amongst those who serve and am a proud member of the Washington Air National Guard,” Helseth said through email. 

Currently, Helseth serves in the National Guard. Although his current position does not include music, he is still enjoying the opportunity he has to serve his country and in particular, Washington state. 

“I am currently a member of the Washington Air National Guard stationed at Camp Murray. I am a Master Sergeant (MSgt) and hold the position of First Sergeant for the 104th Medical Group,” Helseth said. “My primary duty is to build and maintain a mission-ready force through overseeing the health, welfare, morale, and quality of life issues for my troops, both enlisted and commissioned.” 

His job within The National Guard may be different, but no less important.

“I have found that the National Guard is an incredible opportunity to continue serving the country and the state of Washington while also allowing me to pursue a civilian career/goals. It has been a perfect balance for me and is a decision that I am glad that I made.” 

He is content with his current career, but is thankful for his experience in the Air Force. While he was in active duty, Helseth played for the Air Force band in Washington D.C.; more specifically, he played for the 560th Air Force Band of the National Guard. 

“I made it a goal my sophomore year in undergrad to audition for, and win, a position in one of the DC service bands. Everything that I did in college, how long I practiced, the styles of music I studied, the things I listened to, even the people that I hung out with, were singularly focused on that goal.”

Even though Helseth did eventually get into the Air Force band, it was not initially the band he had tried out for. 

“I auditioned for the Marine Band twice and did not win a job. My third audition was for the Air Force Concert Band, and it was the job I won,” Helseth said. “I love the idea of serving my country with the skills that I have honed over years of work. It is the best of what I have to offer, and I was proud to serve with that.”

Danny Helseth playing his baritone. Danny likes his current position in the National Guard because it allows him to still pursue a career as a civilian. In his case, that is teaching music. (Davery Bettger)

There is no question that playing in these bands was important to him. He valued the opportunity to use his talent to serve not only his country but also God. 

“It is the gift that I have been given, and one that I have spent years refining. What better way to serve God and Country than through music? Service through music is something that is special to me.” 

Finding his purpose through music has continued throughout Helseth’s career. As he transforms into a music professor here on SPU’s campus, he is able to use his training and knowledge from 14 years in the Armed Forces.

“It is my role as your professor to ensure that you are mission ready when you leave this school with the correct training, a solid head on your shoulders, and the skill set to deal with adversities and setbacks. That’s no different than maintaining a mission-ready unit through the maintenance of morale, health, welfare, and quality of life issues for my troops.” 

Helseth gives his time to his band students and allows himself to keep exploring his passion for music through teaching, but that is not the only thing he does to help others. Helseth does volunteer work within the National Guard to give back to those in the community. 

“I spent 4 months working at the Salvation Army Food Pantry this spring/summer as a part of the National Guard COVID response. That’s not exactly volunteer work, but I volunteer to do it. The National Guard, Reserves, and Active Duty are all considered “volunteer” work in a sense.”

Helseth serves in many ways. He helps at food pantries, provides medical assistance, and gives  his assistance in fighting fires. Helseth has chosen to volunteer all over.

“The Medical Group participates in social health/wellness missions where we enter a community and provide free medical assistance to anyone in need. I am also a Red-Card trained Wildlands Firefighter, which means I can be called to help fight forest fires here in Washington State.” 

Helseth thrives on serving the people of this country and his students. Once you are Helseth’s student, you’re his student forever. He used his passion for music to lead him to the Air Force and now the National Guard and our very own college campus. 

“In many ways, the role of the First Sergeant and that of professor and advisor are one in the same. I have become a better teacher, advisor, and leader through my training as a First Sergeant,” said Helseth