Daring Spirit: Jonathan Newman

Artists manifest the creative energy of the universe in ways that make it accessible to all, which is why we love to interview and feature them here. This week, we're thrilled to bring you internationally-renowned composer Jonathan Newman. 

Jonathan's diverse accomplishments include continually writing new pieces for ensembles and soloists, being a founding member of the  composer-consortium BCM International, and currently holding the position of Director of Composition & Coordinator of New Music at the Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia. Jonathan's music is fresh & sophisticated - his work takes the idea that classical music is stuffy and boring and turns it upside down!

One of his best-known works has a title we can't resist - Blow It Up, Start Again Words to live by as a daring spirit! Get to know him a little bit here, and then pop over to his site to have a listen.


Daring Spirits:  Tell us about a decision that felt really bold.

Jonathan: I'll give two--one recent, one ancient: 100 years ago when I finished a graduate degree, I decided NOT to continue to get the next (terminal) degree. It was not the safe move, and not at all the usual one.

At the time, not getting that doctorate was a decision that felt like it would force me to be active in the music community, and find creative solutions to making a living while I was building a career. It did exactly that, but I will admit to many moments where I wondered what I was smoking when I made that decision. Nevertheless, I still find people who are surprised that I made that particular call 20 years ago.

In the end, that decision worked out, and made way for the more recent example: moving to northwest Virginia, to teach at Shenandoah Conservatory. Most recently we were living in Portland, Oregon -- a city in which I felt extraordinarily comfortable -- chock-full of amenities and lifestyle in which I was happily immersed -- and to leave that for a teaching position in an unfamiliar part of the country felt like a leap. The job is a terrific one, though, and the school's willingness to take me on based on my professional experience (and not a terminal degree) seems to help justify my first example. 

Daring Spirits:  Describe a time when things went "wrong" and then the Universe delivered.

Jonathan: For ten years after graduate school I supported myself mostly with freelance music copying and engraving, which is kind of like being a composer's assistant, or hired help for music publishers. Near the end of that, I was actually miserable doing the work, and desperate to stop...but my writing career was not yet at the point where stopping was the smart way to go. Very soon after my shouts of misery, the Universe delivered some well-timed, well-placed high-profile performances, and outside work soon became unnecessary!

Daring Spirits:  Beach or Mountains?  Sweet or spicy?  Window or aisle?

Jonathan: An aisle seat to the spicy mountains, please. :-)


Daring Spirits: Newman, we love it when people tell their tales of taking the "not safe" route - thanks for sharing one that worked out so well!

Learn more about Jonathan and what's happening in the world of contemporary classical music at www.JonathanNewman.com.