The Inside Story: Jonathan Santore

Jonathan Santore, composer and educator at Plymouth State University, and recipient of numerous awards, including the American Prize and New Hampshire Composer of the Year, is releasing his debut solo album THERE ARE MANY OTHER LEGENDS on Navona Records this coming Friday, March 10th. Santore is also our next featured artist in ‘The Inside Story,’ a blog series exploring the personalities of our artists.

Jonathan by Maundy from web

Maundy Mitchell Photography

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY! Despite the fact that my parents were both very good amateur musicians who played recordings of a lot of good music in the house (Dad jazz/swing/Great American Songbook, Mom classical), it wasn’t until I saw the Partridge Family that I perceived music as a thing that people did. Now, of course, I listen to those songs and hear solid, well-produced bubblegum, so there might have been worse things to listen to!

As I look back, I realize that I was also unconsciously cherry-picking the steady Top-40 diet of my childhood for interesting timbres, etc. – the piccolo and bassoon in “Tears of a Clown,” the big sweeping French horn lines in Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now,” etc. etc. Then I became a huge Elton John fan, and I realize now that a lot of that sprang from Paul Buckmaster’s orchestral arrangements on his early stuff.

In high school, I was a dedicated trumpet player and band kid, so I spent a lot of time listening to the 20th Century composers who wrote for wind ensemble. This prepared me for a 20th Century Music course in college where I heard SO MUCH life-changing stuff for the first time.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

Oddly enough, I was already playing trumpet several hours a day, pretty engaged as a practicing musician (for a fifteen-year-old, anyway), when one of my high-school English teachers and his wife took me to a screening of Citizen Kane. I’ve tried to describe for years what that experience did for me and has meant to me. Up until that point, music had been fun, a challenge, something to persevere and try to excel at. That screening of Citizen Kane, however, was the first time I remember having a genuine aesthetic reaction to something – in other words, seeing something as ART for the first time, and feeling it as ART and knowing it as ART – having it act on me in a way that nothing else had before. The idea of getting to spend long stretches of time in that place, the place that only art can take us as perceivers, and of being able to bring others to that place as a maker, bit me right there and then.

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What was your most unusual performance?

Unusual and wonderful, thanks to my colleague, collaborator, and friend Dan Perkins, who conducts all the work on There Are Many Other Legends, and who commissioned most of it. I’m privileged to serve as composer in residence for the New Hampshire Master Chorale, which Dan founded with some like-minded choral singers over ten years ago. One of the things that interests Dan most is bringing performances of 20th- and 21st Century music to new audiences and new performance spaces. A few years ago, he told me that he was planning a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass as part of an annual summer solstice festival in Concord, NH, that the performance would be followed by a singalong screening of West Side Story, that the whole event would take place in a parking garage downtown, and what did I think I’d be interested in writing for that concert? My composition setting texts about the summer and winter solstices was well received by the audience – a standing-room-only audience that Dan had brought into a parking garage for a concert consisting entirely of works written after 1970!

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?

I love San Francisco – I fell in love with the place the first time I went there, and have stayed in love with it ever since. This probably falls under the “guilty pleasures” category, but I especially love the area around Fisherman’s Wharf – but early, EARLY in the morning, when there are very few people around, many of them working fishermen headed for their boats. I can imagine living there or near there, with few material possessions, writing music for much of the day, and wandering around blissfully for the rest of the day in and out of the touristy chaos. And the fact that I imagine few material possessions is a very good thing since that’s the only way I could BEGIN to afford to live there!

Jonathan Santore’s THERE ARE MANY OTHER LEGENDS will be released on March 10th. Pre-order now on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic. 

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