Dr. Jeffry Jahn…In His Own Words
During his 25-year tenure as Music Director, Jeffry Jahn conducted over 1,000 rehearsals and 200 performances. In an interview last November 2014, Jeffry shared his own personal musings on music and all things ARS:
ARS: Why Do We Sing?
Many of us can’t imagine not singing! We sing because people are enriched by the beauty and power of choral music. We sing because there is nothing on earth that can compare with a live performance of a choral masterpiece. We sing because we want to make a connection with the divine, with the ethereal, with the spirit that dwells within all of us; the desire to connect with what seems remote and – for one brief moment – feel at peace with all that is. I feel privileged knowing that I am able to share this desire with singers, because together, we can create something that is more than momentary. We can create something which has an impact in more ways than we can imagine.
ARS: What is it about music that makes it so powerful?
Jeffry: Music defines who we are; it’s an individual experience because everyone interprets music differently. It’s therapeutic. I always listen to music that fits my mood, or music that allows me to change my mood.
ARS: What makes choral arts unique?
Jeffry: Choral arts use the important addition of text to the music. A choral composer picks the text that fits the mood, message and intent of the work. So, in a choral piece, the music reflects the mood and emotion expressed by the text, which in turn, drives each singer’s interpretation of what they are performing.
ARS: You have shared your musical genius, leadership and energy with ARS and Tucson for 25 years as Music Director and Conductor. What inspires you the most?
Jeffry: Our singers; I care about each of them. They come together from busy, diverse lives every Tuesday night, August through April, to rehearse choral music and then perform it with the emotion and interpretation I have trained them to portray. ARS is comprised of many solo voices that build a community of singers because as they rehearse with one another, they hear how others sing, and they learn by listening. In the process, they form a strong connection, a team of singers that blend their voices to achieve my interpretation of the music as their conductor.
ARS: You often remind us to let the music move through us as we sing.
Jeffry: That’s right. Music is emotional and must move you somehow. It’s never just an academic experience. I program our ARS concerts with definite attitudes and emotions in mind.
ARS: What do you want each singer to achieve as a performer?
Jeffry: I want the singers to sing their best – all the time! I tell them: You know your own voice; you know what you can do, and you are responsible for making it work. At the same time, as the conductor, I know what works vocally for the ensemble, and how to achieve the best results based on the combination of singers, voice timbre and musical parts.
ARS: What techniques do you use to achieve your desired results?
Jeffry: Singers must be able to hear the pitch, or interval, in their head in order to sing it correctly. They can only achieve this if they have the right vocal placement and breath support.
I model how to sing and make the needed changes to achieve the sound I’m looking for: Prepare to sing with a proper breath before you sing the first note, sing a rounder vowel, breathe even deeper. Singing is work! Singers must have the desire to take the necessary steps to sing better – all the time! I share my energy and passion for choral arts to inspire each of them. I also select music that the singers can relate to personally, and will stretch the ensemble chorally.
ARS: What do you hope the audience will remember after hearing an ARS concert?
Jeffry: ARS sings for the public, not for themselves. In a live performance, the audience becomes a part of the event. Just as I pick music that will stretch the ensemble vocally, I select music that will connect with the audience, and take them to another level, personally – a place that draws them in, so that they become part of the choral art they are listening to. I want people to ask themselves, “How will this music make a difference in my daily life?” And, I want our audiences to leave a concert knowing that they have been transformed by a special, once-in-a-lifetime event that can never be repeated. That’s what an ARS performance is all about!
ARS: What are your aspirations for ARS in the next 25 years?
Jeffry: I want ARS to stay in the forefront of high quality, artistic vocal performance. I want to commission excellent choral compositions, especially from composers that already have a close connection to ARS, so I can set the standards for the musical programming goals I have in mind. I also want ARS to have the necessary financial resources to perform larger well-known works with an orchestra as well as to present cutting edge, intriguing and unique choral music.
And, if I can have it my way, I will always be conducting ARS. I look forward to many more anniversaries with the ensemble.
What Jeffry’s Friends, ARS Alumni and Singers Say…
You have brought ARS to a level that is professional, daring and wonderful to hear. The ensemble performs music that is eclectic, varied and satisfying. Many thanks for all you do for the community, and especially ARS; I am pleased to offer my support in any way that I can. My best to you and ARS – now and in the future.
– Helen Schaefer, Founding and Honorary Board member
“I learned an enormous amount from Jeffry during my time in ARS–the finer points of vocal technique, breathing, how to run a rehearsal – and I continue to use it in my own work as a choir director. As a singer I appreciated his quick mind and sense of humor, and even more, his seriousness of purpose. Jeffry, congratulations on 25 years. Tucson should be grateful to you; I certainly am.”
“Jeffry Jahn has been and continues to be a great mentor, colleague, and ally throughout my musical education and development. His musicianship and dedication to his own artistry made a great impression on me, and his influence remains as strong as ever; Jeffry believed in me when others wouldn’t. At a young age, he gave me a rare opportunity to write a piece for ARS that was performed during one of their concert series. I was incredibly fortunate for this opportunity because it helped to propel me in the right direction and lead me to where I am today as a musician and composer. Jeffry is an inspiration and a role model for all who meet him, one of Tucson’s most worthy musical leaders.”
“My involvement as a member of ARS for over ten years was one of the most enriching and rewarding endeavors in my life. Jeffry’s energetic pursuit of musical perfection and caring support of each of us as singers and individuals pushed all of us to new levels of vocal performance.”
“I joined ARS because of Jeffry Jahn’s exceptional musicianship, artistic vision, and leadership. He encourages each of us to achieve our personal best as vocalists.”