Poppin’ Tags

TeeWanz visited CWU to give students advice on the music industry

Susie Chavez, Scene Reporter

When most students graduate they are satisfied with just finding a job in their field of study. However, some lucky alums go on to receive awards in their careers. One of these award-winning alumni is Michael Wansley, who won two Grammys: One for best rap song and one for best rap performance.

Wansley came to CWU earlier this month to talk to students about working in the music industry and his personal journey getting there.

Grammy award-winner Wansley, also known as Wanz or TeeWanz, is known for singing the hook. “I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket” in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit song “Thrift Shop.”

He is known not only for his performance on the diamond-selling single, but also for wearing his famous three-piece, peach, plaid suit during the “Thrift Shop” music video.

Wanz studied music education at CWU and worked in Dining Services while working on his degree. For most of Wanz’s time at CWU, he studied music education but worked something out with CWU and ended up making his own music business program.

According to the Director of Dining Services Dan Layman, Wanz worked as a dishwasher and milkshake artist at the old Samuelson Union Building.

“There was a time where Wansley was serving the president of the university at the time and while making the milkshake, the shake fell off the machine, spluttered all over Wanz and onto the floor,” Layman said. “But it is so great to see how far Wansley has come as a CWU alumni.”

Wanz graduated in 1985 with a music business degree. Since graduating from CWU, Wanz has worked as a delivery driver, a software engineer and a music artist.

In January 2015, Wanz spoke at the music building, performed at the halftime show of the basketball game later that night and has been known to support  other CWU events.

On April 18, 2016, CWU’s jazz band performed at Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz club in Seattle, where Wanz attended the event for moral support. Whenever he gets the chance, Wanz visits CWU’s campus and Ellensburg for nostalgic reasons. He always gets a butterscotch milkshake from Rossow’s U-Tote-Em.

“Ellensburg is a weird little town and full of community,  which is what makes it special and beautiful because of the people that come from everywhere,” Wanz said. “But this place shaped me and made me a lot of who I am.”

During the most recent visit, Wanz spoke at the McIntyre Recital Hall. CWU musicologist Mark Samples also interviewed Wanz to discuss the music industry, arts entrepreneurship and the tools for success in a competitive world. Earlier that day, Wanz stopped by a choir class before his presentation.

“He gave us some tips on how to improve on our songwriting and I got to say, it was the coolest experience,” said Faithlynn Phillip, a freshman studying family studies. “I love my school,”

The music industry is competitive and to some may seem like an unrealistic dream, but Wanz reassured students that it does not mean it is not possible to make it.

“Nothing substantial happened for me until I was 51 years old,” Wanz said. “And if you want to make your business music, pack your patience, practice your ass off, and have no expectations of who is in the crowd.”

Attending CWU and living in Ellensburg as a young adult helped shape Wanz into the person he is today along with learning about the music industry such as entertaining, performing, editing and songwriting.

For a Grammy winner and CWU alumni to come back to CWU and speak gave inspiration to the students who came to listen.

“Wanz’s clinic was a great opportunity to gain insight on the working of the music industry,” said first year music major, Mike Powers. “The biggest takeaway is you won’t get anywhere without experience and dedication, regardless of your musicianship.”

The next time you are walking toward Walnut Street and University Way, be on the lookout for Wanz’s “Live, Learn, Do” banner and remember that a Grammy winner graduated from CWU and it took time, patience and hard work for that to happen.