26 April 2010

Interview with Nick Jarratt

This is the fifth interview of the "Where are we now?" series. Please take a look at the INTRODUCTION AND INDEX to this series. If you would like to suggest someone for me to interview, please leave a comment below or email me at

Interview with Nick Jarratt
via email
13 March 2010

Nick is the son of Tammy Jarratt, whose interview I posted last week.

IA: First, please tell us a little about yourself as a musician, writer, and participant in the arts in general. What's your experience, in what media do you work, where are you studying, and what's your major exactly?

NJ: My major area of focus is piano, and over the years I have played guitar and drums as well. In the arts, music has always been my greatest passion, but I have also been involved in theater as well as written several poems. My other musical activates include participation in church worship, composition, and involvement in several hard rock bands during high school. At the moment I am a student at Grove City College, majoring in Music/Performing Arts with an emphasis in piano.

IA: What does the "Performing Arts" part of your degree title imply?

NJ: It is similar to a Communications minor. While I am taking all the core music courses, I will have to take classes such as journalism, photography, stagecraft, and television production.

IA: So you are in an excellent position to see what is being done in many different fields of arts. And I assume that you will have classes in which you will study the theories that have been and are motivating forces in these fields, such as Music History and Theory, general Arts appreciation, and maybe even an Aesthetics or Philosophy of the Arts course?

NJ: Yes to all of those!

IA: Let’s talk for a bit about your own piano playing. Would you tell me what your current repertoire is, what pieces you have your sights set on to learn in the future, and any specific techniques you are learning? Who is your teacher? Does she seem to have a particular school of thought or philosophy that informs her own playing and teaching?

NJ: Currently I have a repertoire primarily consisting of Bach Inventions, Chopin Preludes, and Beethoven Sonatas. This semester I am working on “Scherzo in E Minor” Op. 16, No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn, a piece I have been exited to work with for a quite a while. At the moment I am considering either a Chopin Etude or a Rachmaninoff Prelude for next semester. I do not think any pianist should ever dream of escaping regular scale and arpeggio practice, as I have been working heavily in that area, improving my speed and technique. Dr. Huebert, my current piano professor, has been a wonderful help. She is a very experienced teacher and has taught college students and children of all ages. When it comes to speed, her philosophy has been something like, “play it 20 times ridiculously slow until you even think about going any faster.”

IA: What theories inform your work? You told me you've been thinking a lot about where the arts are now, where they've come from, and where they're going. Can you tell me about what you have learned in this area and what you are currently thinking?

NJ: In my work with piano, I have been instructed to know the history and development of these pieces. We should to know what the composer originally intended, though we ought to give our own interpretation. I have learned that media has changed everything. A hundred years ago, our understanding of music was based on geography. Through films, radio, and YouTube we are in an age where everyone is well informed of what’s out there. At this stage in history, we are breaking down the cultural barriers like never before, and I think this affects the arts as well.

IA: When you say that “A hundred years ago, our understanding of music was based on geography,” I’m guessing that you are talking about the ways that artistic perspectives were limited by geography; i.e., any given artist really only knew what was going on in his (or, more rarely, her) own country or maybe continent, but mostly only art that was produced by people of the same ethnic and language backgrounds. What are some of the specific cultural barriers that you see breaking down?

NJ: First of all we are informed. We are not necessarily affected by this, but we know so much about the other cultures of the world. Through news, films, and documentaries we know what distant countries look like, how the people dress, how they speak, and the kind of art they produce. Secondly, I would say that since the world is so connected we have foreign films and music readily available. All the world's art is a mouse click away.

IA: Do you see this new openness as entirely positive, or is it in any way problematic? Some Christians think that opening oneself to other cultures means opening to their religions. Do you draw lines between sacred and secular influences, or do you avail yourself of any artistic influences there are?

NJ: Well, it does put the entire world in competition. These days you have to be very unique and GOOD if you want to get anyone’s attention. Of course this leads many artists to grab their audiences’ attention in other ways, ways that have nothing to do with aesthetic appeal. As for opening myself to other cultures and more specifically other religions, I feel that we must dive in and explore what is out there. Not only is there some amazing art and culture, but it helps one better understand their place in the world by. Sacred and secular influences are very, very interwoven, so it is both or none. I say, bring it on!

IA: Finally, then, do you want to make any predictions about something you think might happen in compositions for the piano specifically, music more generally, or the arts as a whole later in your lifetime? (And do you want to be a part of that change?)

NJ: Composition for piano seems to be at a halt. There are few rules to break, whereas in the Baroque period there were so many rules they seemed to choke the creative potential of the music. But I will say this about music in general. There is always the “popular music,” and then the music that a minority of people enjoy because of its old aesthetic value. Every genre of music, as I have been learning at school, was at one point the pop music, or the music of the people. I think all this pop and hip-hop is eventually going to become something more complicated, and will no longer be the “music of the people,” just the way Jazz went from Swing to Bebop. During that time a new music was invented, Rock and Roll, which developed into something that was more than just a mixing of genres, but a whole new genre. I think just as Jazz was invented in the culture chaos of New Orleans, we could very well be on the verge of something remarkable in music.

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