While not exactly a family secret, Chris Seay wasn’t aware that his grandparents had attended Western Carolina Teachers College, graduating together in 1952.
He made the discovery as a Western Carolina University student himself, well into his academic career as a music education major, while piecing together some family stories and reminisces of earlier times and ties to the mountains. His grandparents had passed away before college became a consideration for him.
“I stumbled across it, really,” Seay said. “I knew my grandfather had been a minister in Webster and my mother was born in Bryson City, and I knew there were connections here. The puzzle pieces came together. It’s a coincidence and it’s a treat to have found it out.”
So now, exactly 70 years later, he looks forward to following in their footsteps and walking across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from the same, albeit evolved, institution.
The tuba player from Belmont has planned his next steps to include earning a master’s degree at Oklahoma State, then perhaps seeking a doctorate.
“As long as I’m teaching and performing, I’ll be happy wherever I am,” said Seay, who described himself as always being a band kid, having started out with percussion before moving to tuba because that’s what his middle school band director needed at the time. “As long as I’m changing lives for the better. That’s what sharing music does and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Besides his grandparents, Seay quickly added he found other “family” ties to WCU.
“The School of Music feels like a connected family all throughout,” he said. “We’ve had some wonderful times, a few times of tragedy, and seeing everyone come together regardless of the circumstance, every professor, every studio, knowing you on a first name basis and asking how you are doing while passing in the hallway, makes it such a personable, wonderful time and I wouldn’t trade the experience for any other or bigger university.”