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by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - An academic adviser at Mt. Hood Community College, Calvin Walker has been named to the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.If you’re a student at Mt. Hood Community College, you may have employed the services of Calvin Walker, your friendly academic adviser.


Now you can call him Calvin Walker, Oregon Music Hall of Fame member.

A drummer, keyboardist, vocalist and trumpeter, Walker officially will be inducted into the hall at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at a concert in the Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., Portland. Other inductees include former Mt. Hood student Patrick Lamb, a saxophonist with whom Walker’s worked.

“It’s cool to be acknowledged for something you’ve done,” Walker says. “It seems like another life now.”

Indeed, long before he began helping Mt. Hood students, Walker played, produced, managed and promoted in the Portland music scene. His production clients have included Michael Allen Harrison, Five Fingers of Funk and Sheila Wilcoxson as well as many others.

He’s been an active member of the Portland Music Association and is the former development director of KMHD 89.1 FM Jazz radio. Walker also owns Nacawana Projects Productions, a company that produces music recordings and videos.

Young blood

A native of St. Louis, Mo., Walker moved to Portland on the cusp of becoming a teenager, and played drums with Jimmy and the late Johnny Sanders, two brothers who played with dozens of area musicians.

“I’d play in a nightclub until 2 in the morning and then get up and go to eighth grade,” Walker says with a chuckle.

A jazz and pop musician since the late 1960s, Walker has played with Carl Smith and the Natural Gas Company, Cruise Control, Shirley Nanette and in his own band, first called Calvin and the Conquerors Orchestra.

Along the way, he opened for Miles Davis as well as the Temptations, Lou Rawls and Level 42. He loved the opportunity to play with more famous folks but always left them alone whenever he shared a stage with them, he says.

“They were there to do a gig,” he says. “The moment is enough.”

Not to mention the fact that over the years he realized Portland was overflowing with talent, highlighting for example Mel Brown, the famous drummer who still plays around town and who’s backed Diana Ross, among others.

“Everybody could hang out and learn from each other,” he says, noting that he was particularly drawn to jazz because of its complexity.

“It was the music of the jam sessions,” he says. “You had to know how to play a samba, a rock beat or play straight ahead.”

Portland fan

He also notes that the Portland area, with its rainy weather, was an ideal place to become a better musician since you’re stuck inside so much and had to pass your time by practicing. That’s one of the reasons why noted performers ranging from The Kingsmen to Quarterflash to Esperanza Spalding have emerged from here, he notes.

“There’s always so much happening and so much great support,” he says. “There was no reason to split.”

Walker has been an academic adviser at Mt. Hood since 2008. He took the job after leaving KMHD, and says the position is a “great fit.

“My favorite thing is when a student is ready to graduate,” he says. “You couldn’t ask for a greater reward than that.”

He likens the feeling to the standing ovations he received as a performer.

On that note, whether in music or helping students at college, he says he’s never bought into the defeatist attitude some people take when it comes to pursuing their dreams. If you just keep working and nurture a sense of joy, people will pick up on what you want to share and respond, he says.

“The only thing that was stopping me was me,” he says of his career, adding he didn’t ever let the man in the mirror hold him back. “I don’t regret a day of it.”

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