This is the beginning of a new series of features on our website, where we profile different members of the PVS family. We’ll have instrumentalists, board members, singers and more, so you can get to know who we are. You might be surprised at how many of us are your friends and neighbors, people you see on the street or in the grocery store. It’s all part of why we are a true community orchestra and chorus!
I spoke to Jonathan the other day, and asked him a few questions about his life, his music, and the PVS chorus. Enjoy!
Where are you from?
I grew up in Ann Arbor, MI, in the house where my parents still live. I moved to Indiana for college and grad school, and then came out here to Western MA in 2009.
When did you start studying music, and when did you know you wanted to make it your career?
I started studying music in elementary school, playing tuba and singing in school plays. By the time I finished high school, I knew I wanted music to be my career, but I thought I would be an orchestral tuba player. As an undergraduate music student, I was really drawn to conducting, and the rest is history!
What is it about choral conducting that draws you to it?
I love leading both instrumental and vocal ensembles (the first groups I conducted were bands and orchestras), and they both have their own sets of rewards and pitfalls. Two things really draw me to choirs, though. First, vocalists have a huge repertoire to explore, from back into the medieval era, all the way up through today. Second, the voice is a very personal instrument. You don’t have a piece of wood or metal through which you’re channeling the music – it’s just your body.
Who are your favorite composers and favorite pieces?
My favorite composers are the ones that I’m studying at that time, and my favorite pieces are the ones I’m preparing for performances. Right now, that means I love the English madrigalists Morley and Weelkes, along with Mozart (Great Mass in C minor), Steven Stucky (Take Him, Earth), Brahms (A German Requiem), Britten (A Ceremony of Carols), Beethoven (9th Symphony), Vaughan Williams (A Sea Symphony), and three student composers at the University of Connecticut whose works I’ll be premiering this fall.
What has it been like as chorus director of PVS?
The PVS Chorus is an amazing collection of people from diverse backgrounds, and with varying levels of musical expertise. I love learning from them, and collaborating with them. In the rest of our lives, we’re all off doing other things, but when we come together for rehearsals, we have a common goal: to create meaning from sound. That’s a beautiful thing.
What kind of singers are you looking for?
Enthusiastic and dedicated! You don’t have to be a hugely accomplished musician (although we have many of those in our ranks), you just have to love music, and want to sing.
Is there an audition for PVS Chorus? What are the basic requirements?
I hold placement hearings for all new singers, so that I can get to know their individual voice, and their musical experience. You don’t have to come in with anything prepared – I work with every singer to find out where they’re coming from. And, it’s private – just me and the new singer. Low pressure, very friendly. I’m on every singer’s side.
Thank you Jonathan! If you’re interested in joining the PVS chorus, email us! Better still, come to the open rehearsal at The Barn at Bement School on Tuesday, August 27th at 7:30pm. (By the way, those awesome photos of Jonathan conducting are by Paul Franz, photographer at the Greenfield Recorder!)