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Southwest Florida's Renowned Master composer and musician, Dr. Jason Bahr

I am most honored to know and call Dr. Jason Bahr a friend. Southwest Florida is blessed to have one of the most extraordinarily gifted musicians and composers in the world. The Beethoven 250 series would not be complete without Jason. He brings a plethora of talent and passion for God and people, as his music touches hearts worldwide.

Jason Bahr is a composer living in Southwest Florida. He has received over 400 performances of his works, including performances in 35 states and over a dozen foreign countries. He is a recipient of a MacDowell Colony Residency, a Fromm Foundation commission, has won the Northridge Prize for Orchestral Composition for Golgotha, and the Cambridge Madrigal Singers Choral Composition Competition with Psaume 1.

Bahr is an active performer and is vice president and bass section leader for the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers and the Chancel Choir at the First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs, FL. A Kansas City native, Bahr is an avid fan of the Kansas City Royals. He makes his home with his wife Rebecca and their cat Ray.


Visit Jason's website to hear his music and learn about upcoming performances and projects.


BEETHOVEN INSPIRATION

What is your favorite Beethoven musical work? And why?

I once had the opportunity to hear Tim Adams, Principal Timpanist for the Pittsburg Symphony, to give a talk at the Brevard Music Center. He was asked, “What is your favorite work?” He said whatever he was working on at the moment. I was quite pleased because at the time he was working on a piece by me! I like this answer for another reason as well. As performing musicians, we must invest ourselves in the piece we are performing. I will admit I do not go as far as Mr. Adams—I do not like everything I perform. However, I am working on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 49 No. 2, to perform it in concert next year. It is fantastic because it has a great variety of moods, contrasting textures, and a good form. I also like it because it is easy enough to be played by someone of my meager abilities.

How has Beethoven’s master artistry inspired or influenced you as a creative?

Beethoven inspires me most through his process. He has a way of creating vast forms out of small ideas, and for him (and for me), it does not come easy. I sometimes compare Beethoven and Mozart to sculptors. Mozart is rather like Michelangelo. Michelangelo could look at a piece of marble, imagine the work inside, and carefully chisel, sand, and scrape to reveal the work of art. Beethoven is like an artist working with clay—adding material, taking some away, fussing, and eventually, the result is wonderful. The great composer John Corigliano examined some sketches from the funeral march of the Eroica Symphony and described them this way in an interview with Ann McCutchan in the book The Muse That Sings: “…he [Beethoven] begins with something so dumb it’s hard to believe any human being could have written it, let alone Beethoven. Then he revises it, and it’s still dumb, then he tries something else, and finally, down the line, at the end, he makes something fabulous. However, you really see this man struggling.”

Beethoven was a man of great faith who saw music as a medium that could be experienced anywhere. What are your thoughts on the power of the arts to transform lives?

It would be difficult for someone to go through a day in our society without experiencing art in some guise. Indeed, if we take music alone, we experience music as we shop at the grocery store, hear it in advertisements, in the background of movies, television shows, on the radio, or a streaming service. Someday soon, I hope we are experiencing music in concerts again! Music is omnipresent in our lives, and how we listen can transform us.

How did you get started on your creative journey?

I am the second of four children. My mother, God rest her soul, had a Victorian ideal of her children playing piano in our foyer with a grandfather clock keeping time, so we all took piano lessons. I was not a good piano student. I became decent at sight-reading music but did not practice regularly. When the music was too difficult, I intuitively understood how to simplify or alter the music to fit my skills. I became interested in different directions the music might go, and this led very naturally to composing my own works, without prompting from a teacher.

I was fortunate to go to Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences, a magnet school regarded as the best high school in the state of Kansas. There I found several supportive mentors, Cathy Crispino, a choir director, William Leafblad, a band director and music theory teacher, and James Shepherd, a theatre teacher. I shared that I was composing music with these teachers, and they supported me and gave me opportunities to develop. Mr. Shepherd enlisted me to write music for the school production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I won an award for “Sound Design” for my efforts. I joined the choir, accompanied violinist friends, and wrote more music. I was one of two students at my high school chosen for the Kaw Valley Arts Award (1991), a prestigious local award. Mrs. Crispino assisted me in preparing an audition on voice, and I was admitted to the UMKC Conservatory of Music as a music composition major.


Stravinsky once said if he has done anything good in music, it was all thanks to God. I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. Many of my works are about my faith explicitly, but whenever I make music, I know it is God who makes it (and all things) possible.

Watch and listen to Jason Bahr's PS150 Project!


Where are you now on this journey?

I am in a very good place. I really love making music! I am presently finishing a quartet (violin, clarinet, ‘cello, and piano), and it is one of the best things I have written. Unfortunately, the premiere set for November has been delayed indefinitely.

Many performances of my works have been delayed or canceled during the pandemic. I also miss making music with my friends and an audience by singing, playing the piano, or conducting. When I do venture out, I am wearing a mask, and I wash my hands thoroughly and often. If we all do our part we can be back on the creative journey together.

What are some of your accomplishments?

One of my highest honors is my inclusion in the Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll awarded to me in 2007. My school district, USD 500, remains a challenging place for students. This award was started in 2002 to encourage current high school students in my home town by highlighting successful graduates from USD 500. In my speech at the awards ceremony, I highlighted the support my teachers gave me at Sumner Academy. Of all my accolades, this one means the most to me. It is an honor to be recognized by my peers for prizes in my field, but it warms my heart to know that what I have done encourages future generations.

Aside from that accolade, I have had somewhere around 500 performances of my works throughout the United States and the world. I have won a Fromm Commission, a MacDowell Colony Residency, The Cambridge Madrigal Singers Choral Composition Competition, the Northridge Prize in Orchestral Composition, and many other awards. I also have several published works, my works are on some dozen CDs, and I have been invited to hundreds of new music festivals, national and international conferences, etc.

How do you connect your art to your faith?

Stravinsky once said if he has done anything good in music, it was all thanks to God. I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. Many of my works are about my faith explicitly, but whenever I make music, I know it is God who makes it (and all things) possible.

What can you, as an artist, inherently do to make a difference in the world today?

Making a difference starts with being a caring, empathetic person. I try in my interactions with people to let them know they are important and valued. I do this by asking about their day and by listening attentively to what they have to say. The only thing we have is time, and it is our choice how we spend it. When we give that time to someone else, it makes a difference in their lives. As my music allows me to interact with people, I want to be a good steward of that opportunity.

Soli Deo Gloria


Copyright 2020, William S. Barnett

Creative Conversations I W.S. Barnett

P.O. Box 111742

Naples, Florida 34108

info@wsbarnett.com

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