In June 2022, professor of tuba and euphonium and director of the Pride of the Plains Marching Band died suddenly following a heart attack during a biking incident in Kansas City. He leaves behind numerous students, current and former.
Whitten received many accolades and garnered many achievements during his time at Pittsburg State University. In addition to teaching private tuba and euphonium students, he also directed the Symphonic Band, an un-auditioned ensemble primarily made up of non-music majors, and the Basketball Pep Band which provided live music at basketball games during the winter and spring sports season. Additionally, he took the marching band to a football championship game in Alabama in 2011, coordinated a recording for the Hollywood soundtrack to “The Campaign” starring Will Ferrell and produced the soundtrack with his friend and audio engineer Chris Fogel, directed the Mid-America All-Star Marching Band which traveled to Washington D.C and consisted of local high school students, directed the All-State Shrine Bowl Marching Band, marched drum and bugle corps and served in the armed forces. Whitten is survived by his fiance Kristie Browns, and his two children.
“He (Whitten) was my advisor when I was first here as a flute music major,” said Taylor Jones, senior in Spanish. “He helped me get all my classes together and was generally a nice professor. Once I switched to a music minor, he still helped me just as nicely and said things like, ‘Here’s the classes you take, and here’s the classes that I’m teaching.’ I obviously took those ones…”
Jones initially played flute in marching band, but in recent years, she has switched to playing tuba.
“When I went to play tuba, he first just handed me a tuba and said, ‘Good luck’ with a smile on his face,” Jones said. “But after that, every time he saw me playing on the field, even I was just playing three notes, he always made a point to tell me, and other students, that I was doing a good job. He was always so encouraging…”
Whitten worked for PSU in the department of music for nearly 19 years. In that time, he fostered connections with many PSU faculty and even their children when they became students such as senior in general studies Caleb Fuchs.
“One of my favorite memories are when his kids were going to come to school here (PSU), he came up to me in McCray lobby and asked me what he needs to do as a professor and a parent to make sure they have a nice and fun college experience,” Fuchs said. “He didn’t want to get in their way and not let his last name get in the way of their life here. I thought that was very touching, that he thought I was the best person to ask about that.”
Fuchs is the son of former director of the PSU Wind Ensemble Craig Fuchs who worked closely with Whitten during their shared time at PSU.
“When I heard the news, I was just in shock,” Caleb said. “I heard before some people because my dad told me, but after I processed it some, I just wanted to be there for everybody else because I feel like we’re a family here in the music department…”