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Campus Composer

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    Jason Hoogerhyde's music has been performed internationally. (Photo by Claire McAdams '10)

Liberal arts environment provides inspiration for music professor Jason Hoogerhyde

Growing up in a musical family in Chicago, Jason Hoogerhyde remembers always making up his own music, assuming that a career as a composer was in his future. And he was right.

“From a very early age, I was more interested in making up music than performing someone else’s music,” Hoogerhyde said.

The desire to create unique music and teach in a liberal arts environment led Hoogerhyde  to Southwestern University, where he has taught for seven years. He is currently associate professor of music theory and composition and chair of the Music Department.

“Music doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The liberal arts’ association with music is something that I feel very strongly about,” Hoogerhyde said.

Hoogerhyde honed his musical interests by attending a fine arts high school in Chicago. He went on to study music at Lawrence University, Boston University and the University of Cincinnati.

After graduating with his doctorate of musical arts, he returned to teach at his alma mater Lawrence University, a liberal arts college similar to Southwestern. He also taught as an instructor at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Division of Research and Advanced Studies.

Hoogerhyde’s music has been performed locally, nationally and internationally. Most recently, his piano trio Canopy of Night was selected by composer-peers to be featured at the College Music Society International Conference in South Korea and his composition titled Drift, written for cello and marimbas, received its second performance in Japan.

In writing his music, Hoogerhyde said he finds that the students and professors at Southwestern are key sources of inspiration.

“There are so many interesting scholars on campus from whose work I can learn all kinds of things about the world. As a composer, those extra-musical catalysts are what fuel my creativity more than anything,” Hoogerhyde said.

Since working at Southwestern, Hoogerhyde has contributed individual and collaborative music to several events. This includes The Color of Dissonance, an opera that was written to celebrate the re-dedication of the Alma Thomas Theatre in 2009. Hoogerhyde created the musical content for the collaborative project that featured student actors, dancers, faculty, musicians and artists. He said he plans on turning a portion of the music from the opera into a concert piece during his sabbatical in spring 2012.

Hoogerhyde also was commissioned to set Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni’s poem Voy a dormir to music for the 2011 Brown Symposium. “Once I read the gorgeous poem and got a sense of Storni’s strength of will and intense love of the world while facing terminal illness, I had everything I needed to write,” Hoogerhyde said. The piece drew a standing ovation after it was performed by the Southwestern University Chorale.

Faculty and students alike hold Hoogerhyde in high esteem. “It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Jason, both as a colleague in the Department of Music and in composer/conductor collaborations,” said Lois Ferrari, a professor of music and conductor of the SU Orchestra and the SU Wind Ensemble. “Jason’s music is honest, original, and deep; the colors he evokes melodically and harmonically are interesting and wholly his own. I am always excited to be able to premiere one of his works or to program others that we have performed before.”

Hoogerhyde teaches between five and nine composition students each semester. Some of them are aspiring composers and others just have an interest in learning how to write music. All of them, however, have education and interests outside the department that they are encouraged to apply to their music. Sometimes it is a poem or a current event that inspires a new piece written by a student with guidance from Hoogerhyde.

“Students come to composition lessons with all different points of view about the world around them,” Hoogerhyde said. “Helping them channel those ideas into coherent and communicative works of music is my main goal.”

Hoogerhyde has had students accepted to prestigious graduate schools to pursue composition, but he believes even those who don’t pursue music professionally have a good foundation that they can apply to other fields. “An immersion in musical study, and the intensive focus involved in creating it from scratch, provides these students with a discipline and sense of dedication to a craft that is absolutely transferable to, and desirable in, any line of work,” he said.

−Kristen McLaughlin