This Monday, August 22, I am excited to begin graduate studies in music history at the University of Louisville. Although it has been difficult leaving so many family members and friends in Louisiana, I am thrilled to be here in Louisville, Kentucky on the verge of starting something quite new and exciting. I have wanted this for a long time: I knew even as I was completing my undergraduate work at the Louisiana Scholars’ College three years ago that I wanted to someday return to academia to pursue my master’s degree and, hopefully, my doctorate from there. I also knew, however, that I wanted to experience the “real world” away from school for some time: I had never held a real job before nor had I ever not been a student; I gained that “real world” experience working at the Arts Council for most of that three-year interim. My musical interests and scholarly pursuits kept drawing me back into their world, nonetheless, and for two years I had the privilege of bringing chamber music to Central Louisiana as series director of Abendmusik Alexandria. Now, as a graduate student at the University of Louisville, I can once again devote my full attention to learning.
I arrived in Louisville a little more than two weeks ago on Friday, August 5. The twelve-hour drive was not easy, but I had received an encouraging send-off a few days earlier at the inaugural concert of Nachtmusik von BrainSurge where I had the chance to see many of my Louisiana friends one last time before beginning my new adventure. In my first two weeks in Louisville, I have already met several of my fellow graduate students, professors, and the great music library staff, making new friends in the process. I have also enjoyed exploring campus and its surroundings – the wonderful, aged trees and historic red brick buildings have allowed for beautiful evening walks. On occasion, I have ventured even further into other parts of what feels like quite a big city compared to what I am used to back in Central Louisiana.
Louisville is a town known for horse racing, baseball bats, and boxing champions – none of which interest me too much. What does interest me, however, is the School of Music’s devotion to contemporary music. Since 1985, the University of Louisville has each year presented the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition to one outstanding composer from around the world. Recipients of the Grawemeyer Award have included Witold Lutoslawski (the very first), György Ligeti, Harrison Birtwistle, Krzysztof Penderecki, John Adams, Pierre Boulez, Kaija Saariaho, Louis Andriessen, Wolfgang Rihm, and this year’s recipient Hans Abrahamsen. These and the other composers on the list are among the greatest contributors to contemporary music – many are in fact the same composers whose music I have recently surveyed in my series Contemporary Voices. The Grawemeyer Award has given the University of Louisville and its music students a direct link with new music: Grawemeyer winners and other composers of their caliber regularly visit the school, student musicians perform their music, and history students like me are afforded a unique opportunity to delve into their music through the Grawemeyer Archives where every score ever submitted for the Award has been collected.
Classes begin Monday, and I am excited to be enrolled in several music history and music theory courses this semester as well as participating in the chorus. I want to thank everyone who has given me encouragement over these past three years in Alexandria – please keep in touch! I will continue to write program notes and new blog entries from afar, but please also feel free to give me a call, message me on Facebook, or shoot me an email to check in on how I am doing!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a composer, music scholar, and advocate of music. Jackson graduated summa cum laude from the Louisiana Scholars’ College located in Natchitoches, Louisiana in May 2013 after completing his undergraduate thesis “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” As series director of the successful Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series from May 2014 to April 2016, Jackson played a vital role in the renewal of interest in chamber music across Central Louisiana. This interest has encouraged the creation of the annual Sugarmill Music Festival and the new series Nachtmusik von BrainSurge, both of which Jackson will remain active in as concert annotator and creative consultant. Jackson has in fact written program notes for many of Central Louisiana’s key music presenters, including the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Arts Council of Central Louisiana, and Northwestern State University. He also blogs at MusicCentral where he shares concert experiences, gives listening recommendations, posts interviews with contemporary composers, and offers insights into his own compositions. Jackson has followed classical music around the world, including trips to Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival and the BachFest Leipzig in Germany. As a composer, he has worked to integrate a modern vocabulary into established classical forms in ways that are not only innovative but also engaging to the general listener. His four-movement Suite for solo guitar, Op. 21 received its world premiere on November 5, 2015 and has also been aired on public radio. In fall 2016, Jackson will begin graduate studies at the University of Louisville with the ultimate goal of earning his doctorate in musicology. Learn more about Jackson Harmeyer, his scholarship, and his compositions at www.JacksonHarmeyer.com.