My mother is a pianist and church organist and my father is a visual artist, so I have been immersed in the arts since childhood. I began playing the piano at age 5, studying with my mother, and then started on the cello in the fourth grade in the Quincy (Illinois) Public Schools.

In high school I became interested in composition and music theory. By that time, I was playing cello in both the high school orchestra and the local civic orchestra (the Quincy Symphony) and I wanted to learn more about how some of the music I loved was put together, what made it "work." My first theoretical studies were with the conductor of the Quincy Symphony, but probably the best lessons I had at that time came from hearing some of my early compositions performed by my high school orchestra.

Following graduation, I moved to New York City. I worked as a freelance musician and earned an undergraduate degree in composition from a wonderful small conservatory, the Mannes College of Music. During that time my general musical ear and experience greatly expanded. I spent hours in the library listening to music with scores in hand. I went to recitals almost every night, got standing room at the Metropolitan Opera, and attended rehearsals by the New York Philharmonic, often with Leonard Bernstein conducting.

After earning my degree, I stayed in New York for a time. I taught fifth through eighth grade general music at a private school, taught in the extension and preparatory divisions at Mannes, composed incidental music for the National Shakespeare Company, and produced concerts of my music, including one at Carnegie Recital Hall.

Eventually I left New York, and earned masters degrees in composition from both Duke University and the Yale School of Music, and then a doctorate in composition from Yale. I then lived in different communities around the country, teaching composition and music theory at universities in Iowa, California and Pittsburgh. Along the way, I enjoyed opportunities to teach and study in St. Petersburg, Russia; and in the village of Kopeyia, Ghana. I have now lived and worked for a decade in Louisville. It is the place where my son was born and my family calls home.

The music I compose often reflects the places I have been at various points in my life. Whether such places are geographical and literal or psychological and spiritual, communication and human connection are of singular importance to me. My diverse catalogue includes orchestral music, vocal music, chamber music and opera., But, regardless of genre, a sympathetic listener will perceive certain basic consistencies in my work. It is music that is direct and reveals itself in an American tonal and rhythmic idiom. Whether lyrical or more angular, it is music that -- in its own way -- carries on certain traditions while continuing to engage in an active dialogue with those traditions, moving beyond them and extending them to our present day, while inviting continuation towards the future.

Jeremy Beck
Louisville, Ky.




Kentucky Arts Council