Q&A with Jaman Edward Dunn
A new figure at the podium in the BPO's Education Concerts
2018 graduate of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee joined the BPO as Assistant Conductor for Community Engagement in October
Photo courtesy of the BPO
In addition to playing violin from age eight and viola from age seventeen, you studied voice at Ohio State and continue to sing in both oratorio and opera. How do you think that your vocal studies/performances help you as a conductor of a symphony orchestra?
My greatest passion is choral orchestral masterworks, and I felt that it is of the utmost importance to have an approach both vocal and instrumental in nature to accurately interpret the composer’s intent. The process of learning a vocal piece requires background work about the work’s composer, language and intent. Using these same techniques when approaching orchestral music gives me a more well-rounded approach to interpretation.
Tell us about the completely student-run and operated Buckeye Philharmonic, which you founded at Ohio State.
In addition to serving an underserved community of students, I formed the orchestra to assist my applications to graduate school. There are very few practical ways for potential graduate students to gain video footage of themselves conducting an ensemble. I had to create my own opportunities in order to further my own career. Similarly, when I was studying at Berklee I conducted self-promoted concerts, recruiting players for the orchestra, choosing the repertoire, and advertising the event.
In your bio you write that as an African American, you “hope to raise awareness of African Americans in classical music; as performers at all levels, and in all mediums.” How does your new position allow you to accomplish this?
I think this will help in many ways, but the best, however, is participation in the Education Concerts. I will be conducting most of the remaining Education Concerts that the BPO is presenting, and in this, I will be creating visibility for students ages six through fourteen. Even more than conducting the concerts, interpersonal interaction with the students is key. If I had seen an African American conductor at the age of many of these students, I would have had just that much more confidence that I could do it, too.