New Music

Most of the canon of symphonic repertoire was written by white men. This is not, of course, because only white men are capable of writing great symphonic music. Rather, it is because only relatively recently has anyone else had consistent access to the training and opportunities that those white men had for hundreds of years. If an orchestra consistently focuses on repertoire before 1950, then, they reenforce the image of symphonic music as a domain exclusively reserved for white, mostly German, men. Jaemi’s commitment to more recent music is therefore not only aesthetic, but political in nature. It is a commitment to representing diverse voices, styles, points of view, and experiences. Just as representation in film matters, so to does representation in music making. Jaemi hopes that purposefully diversifying programming will help a greater variety of people feel welcome in the symphonic world, thereby keeping orchestral music making relevant and vibrant.

Though it is now fashionable for conductors to proclaim their support and advocacy for new music, building new pieces into the repertoire of an ensemble requires more than premieres of works by well-known living composers. Older pieces have the benefit of hundreds and thousands of performances behind them so that only rarely does an orchestra approach the piece for the first time. With newer music, a conductor must in some sense teach the piece to the orchestra. As an avid educator, Jaemi enjoys this sometimes complicated and messy process. She is committed to that learning process, even when the result is not a news-making premiere, but rather a fifth or tenth performance of a wonderful piece. While there are clearly good reasons that the great masterworks of the symphonic canon are so beloved, the art of must keep moving forward in order to continue to wield its unique power of deep human expression. The work of bringing out the revolutionary nature in the music of Beethoven or Stravinsky is an exciting challenge for Jaemi, but she believes that aesthetic revolution must be an ongoing process and ignoring music that pushes current boundaries is a grievous error.

New or recent music is too often and too easily walled off into a niche separate from “standard” repertoire, labeling those who perform it as specialists only. Jaemi jumps at any chance to work with a living composer or perform a recent work. Her general love of technology and trying new things leads her to embrace opportunities to expand the symphonic sound palette with electronics, extended techniques, etc. as well as recent forays into the use of film as part of the concert experience. But, that doesn’t mean she isn’t equally interested in or comfortable performing works by Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, and the other dead white men of the musical pantheon. Like most young musicians, Jaemi has grown up in a world where a dizzying array of music has always been easily available to her. She grew up equally enthralled by Beethoven, Brahms, Gilbert and Sullivan, Indigo Girls, They Might Be Giants, Blood Sweat and Tears, sea chanties, and Neil Diamond. Jaemi’s eclectic tastes help her to recognize that what diverse types of music have in common is more important than how they differ. Great music begins with the ability to speak to listeners on a deeply human level, no matter the style or genre.