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    • Jeffery performs in church.

    • Jeffrey playing the the piano.

Artist of the Issue: James Jeffery ‘22

Daniela Rodriguez-Larrain Fernandez ’23 Arts Editor
James Jeffery ’22 is the product of an upbringing surrounded by music. 
When describing his childhood, Jeffery said, “My [adolescence] was kinda like that song ‘mamma had a little business... papa was a rolling stone.’” With a mother who worked as a professional opera singer and a father who played in several bands as a “multi-instrumentalist,” Jeffrey was inspired to find his own niche in music, beginning with the piano and later on the organ. “I always wanted to emulate my mom. I felt that what she did was rad but, through self-discovery, I found my own love for music.” Jeffery began taking piano lessons when he was five. However, Jeffery said he “was sounding out chords and stuff like that for years before.” At first, Jeffery was hesitant to take piano lessons. However, his lessons went well: “My parents put me in lessons, and I was very upset, but they went well and I still have the same teacher now. I had lessons with her yesterday.” Although Jeffery has experimented with many instruments, he believes that the piano truly triumphs over all other instruments: “The piano is really the crown jewel... because you have a full range of expression... you can also get so much feeling out of [the piano]. It has, I think, one of the most beautiful
voices.” His favorite musical genre is currently romantic-era music, “like the 1800’s expressionists. I love that music so much, it is so gorgeous.” However, Jeffery has also played in several rock bands and, in addition to his love for romantic-era music, has an affection for jazz due to the free-form nature of the genre: “I really love playing parlor jazz and downtempo swing. You can play whatever you want with your right hand as long as you have some pretty chords on your left hand underneath, and people will lose their minds as you make all of it up.” In addition to performing, Jeffery has a deeply-rooted love for music composition: “I like to write pieces based on [emotion-evoking] imagery... A few years back, I wrote an orchestral suite called the Fire of Notre Dame based on that event and its place in history and popular culture.” Jeffery attributed his emotional ties to Notre Dame to its foundations as one of the first institutions where music was studied. He said, “Its place in music history was so important and all of that going up in flames was a very moving image. So that’s kind of my golden standard; I try to think about something with a lot of emotional significance.” Jeffery believes that the satisfaction of composing a successful piece is truly unparalleled: “When you spend like 400 hours writing something that works that only five people will ever hear, you feel like a champion.” Despite his love for composition, Jeffery has never taken a composition class before, an undertaking he hopes to follow through with as he continues his music education at the Eastman School of Music at  the University of Rochester. At Eastman, Jeffery plans to study classical organ repertoire, which he hopes will lead him to a professional career playing the organ in a church. Jeffery currently serves as the musical director and organist for the Calvary St. George’s Episcopal Church. For
Jeffery, playing the organ within a church setting helps him expose the ordinary person to a classical repertoire they might not encounter elsewhere. He stated, “I wish that classical music was more a part of the American regular pop-culture stream of consciousness, but it’s sort of viewed as this thing that’s gatekept by rich people... being at church is one of the few opportunities you have to bring the music of the past to everyday people.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeffery composed a two-act musical: “I wrote [Bourbon Street] two summers ago and never had the opportunity to perform it in high school, but I would like to get that done in college. I’ve already been in contact with [Eastman] professors who have assured me that getting [my musical] onstage would be doable.” Above all, Jeffery is a storyteller, the piano his pen. He said, “There are just so many stories
you can tell with this instrument... I know my [college] studies will be really intense and a really big journey, but I’m very excited to do just that. I see myself playing the piano professionally for the rest of my life... that’s really the dream. I’m going to try to become the best I can be.”
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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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