Returning home with ‘Stomping Ground’
Joey May | Hiawatha World
Shane Spangler is going back to his roots with his new CD “Stomping Ground.”
The well-known minister who pastors at Bethany and Fairview United Churches of Christ, is also locally famous for his mad skills on the piano.
Spangler, who will be 44 in August, has spent a good part of his life in Brown County — born and raised in Fairview and attended Hiawatha schools until he was in seventh grade. At that time, he moved with his family — parents are David and Carol Spangler, both retired teachers — to Branson, Mo., where he went on to graduate from Hollister High School in 1992 and studied at the College of the Ozarks.
Spangler returned to Kansas for additional education, this time at Washburn University, where he graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s in French, music and piano performance.
From 1998 to 2001, Spangler took a hiatus from the books and served as administrative assistant at the Apostolic Christian Home in Sabetha after he had completed a licensed program in long-term care management.
But God had further plans for him that took him to the East Coast, where he attended Andover-Newton Seminary in Boston.
“I remember my first day of classes well,” he said. “It was 9-11, 2001 and instead of going to class, we went to the chapel to pray.”
Spangler graduated from the seminary — now part of Yale University — in 2005. During his time in Boston, Spangler could not keep away from the piano, so he began lessons at the New England Conservatory, “a fantastic school of music,” he said.
“My Mom made me start the piano and I was about 3 when I started,” he said. “I had some really good teachers. Kathleen Haag was one of my first piano teachers and Jim Rivers, a teacher at Washburn and pianist in residence, encouraged me to write.”
After graduating from seminary, Spangler said he couldn’t stop thinking of coming home.
“I think the plan in the back of my mind was always to come home,” he said. “Some of my new pieces come out of the homesickness that I experienced.”
Growing up on a farm in northeast Kansas, Spangler said the “dirt gets in your blood.”
“I missed the farm and being close to the land,” he continued. “You feel so disconnected when you live in the city.”
Now living back on a farm about 1 mile from the family farm he grew up on, Spangler said that unless they experience it, people just don’t know what it is like to live in a rural area.
“You become so dependent on the land and the weather,” he said.
With “Stomping Ground,” Spangler tries to share his feelings about the land and its people through piano music. There is the “Fairview Foxtrot,” “The Sabetha Buzz,” “The Wathena Deceleration Fantasy” and “The Hiawatha Hustle,” — just to name a few pieces that were based off memories and people from these locations.
Over the years, Spangler became well-known in not only the Brown County area — but with musicians at Washburn — for his solo and accompanying piano skills. He continued to develop as a pianist and worked with renowned musicians to sponsor events such as the In The Plains Chamber Music Festival, which lasted several days. This is where Spangler worked with several other musicians to provide clinics for local youth during the day and put on performances at local venues during the evening.
Spangler has recorded with some of those musicians — including his 2010 Christmas CD with celloist Samuel Cho. He has also brought several to share in with his local performances — the last being “Synchronicity,” in April — sponsored by the Morrill Public Library.
Spangler released his first CD 15 years ago in Boston. It featured a combination of his own compositions and classical pieces. With “Stomping Ground,” he has re-recorded some of those original pieces and feels they are much improved.
On his newest CD, Spangler said the first five selections, along with 7-8-9 are based on Psalms. Some of the titles include “At a Crossroads,” “A Walk at Sunset,” “Mary’s Song,” “Tried Like Silver” and “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.”
Selections 10-17 are all new, he said. There is “Wedding Waltz,” which was written for a special couple and “Ivory Palaces,” “Barbed Wire Boogie” and “Lullaby.”
The cover shows a laughing Spangler, in an outdoor scene, black and white. Spangler said he had been laughing at a joke by photographer Andee Rettele and she snapped the photo at that exact moment.
It fit what he wanted to share with his new music.
The back cover details the 17 selections against a photograph taken inside the Fairview Church of Christ, with a piano and bench in the foreground and the alter with a cross and candles in the back.
Spangler worked with Kansas Public Radio Studios in Lawrence and engineer Chuck Smith.
“He was a wonderful engineer,” he said.
Spangler said they recorded all 17 selections from start to finish in one take, with just a few minor edits.
“‘Stomping Ground’ is about the people and places that I love around Northeast Kansas,” he said, “…the people who are an important part of my life. I wanted to write the things that were true for me — I had to get over my ego first, where I worked toward pleasing and impressing my colleagues and professors. Now I just want to tell the truth.”
Spangler and his new music will be featured in concert on Saturday, July 28, at Klinefelter Barn. He said more details will be announced as the date gets closer, but he will be collaborating with Fairview artist Christina Klein for the performance.
“Stomping Ground” can be found on Amazon, iTunes, Pandora, CD Baby and Spotify in hard copy and digital formats. Spangler’s first CD was hard copy only and his Christmas CD is still digitally available on some sites.