As a professor in the Music Department and the college’s director of bands, Ricky Fleming is a familiar face on campus. For nearly 20 years, Fleming has conducted the wind and jazz ensembles seen at so many ceremonial events and popular concerts at Buffalo State.
Yet his path to becoming a longstanding educator was not necessarily a straight line. “Ironically, I never saw myself as a teacher,” said Fleming. “But teaching sort of called me.”
Fleming grew up in Mississippi where football was the activity that consumed many of his classmates. “There were really great athletes in my neighborhood,” said Fleming. “Unfortunately, I wasn't one,” he added with a laugh.
After a brief tenure with his school’s football team, Fleming managed to stay on the field by joining the marching band and other school ensembles as a trombone player.
Still, Fleming’s early career aspirations were outside of the performance arena.
“At that time, I thought I was going to probably go to school and become a private investigator or a detective, or something like that," said Fleming. “But I was fortunate to be a part of a high school band program that was thriving.”
Just like a successful school athlete, Fleming was scouted by universities and colleges looking to bolster their starting line. Fleming was recruited by Mississippi Valley State University, landing a full scholarship. He went on to earn his master’s degree in trombone performance from the University of Mississippi.
Fleming served as a middle- and high school-band director in Orlando, Florida, for several years, before returning to college to earn his doctorate in music education from Florida State. He joined the Buffalo State faculty in 2001.
As a trombonist, Fleming has performed with the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, and many others. He has generously contributed his time and talent to the local music scene and performs regularly for various organizations throughout Western New York.
Fleming has also encouraged the next generation of musicians through the annual Summer Music Institute, which he founded in 2013. The institute is composed of one-week classical and jazz camps designed for area students entering seventh through 12th grade. Professional musicians and Buffalo State music majors teach the students in intensive master classes and improvisational groups.
“Buffalo State really has been great for me,” said Fleming. “It has taught me how to teach and be a far better teacher. We have students doing great things, great work, all over, and I'm so very proud of them. They are out making a difference in the lives of their community and the lives of their students. And you can't ask for anything more.”