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Opinion

Music department hosts prestigious musician Jason Ham

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March 7, 2013

Last week was a special week for the UWRF Music Department. The Symphony Band, University Band and the Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble welcomed prestigious musician Jason Ham, a solo euphonium player for the United States Military Academy at West Point. The three ensembles spent countless hours in the week rehearsing with Ham, who was in-residence, leading up to the concert last Thursday, Feb. 28. The concert showcased the U.S. premiere of Johan de Meij’s “UFO Concerto.” Musicians in all the ensembles have commented on what an incredible experience it was to work with a musician that has such a prestigious title and so much musical talent. I know that for me, it was a week that I will remember for a very long time.

Ham is in his seventh year with the West Point band, and he has built a reputation as one of the country’s most active and talented euphonium soloists. A native of Columbia, S.C., Ham began studying euphonium in high school where he earned several state and local awards for his playing.

Later on, Ham studied with the late David Randolph and David Zerkel when he started college at University of Georgia. While studying at UGA, Ham earned honors such as winning the Atlanta Brass Society Collegiate Soloist Competition (1998) and as a finalist in the Music Teacher’s National Association Competition (2000). Just before graduating in June of 2001, Ham was accepted for a position with the United States Military Academy Band.

One very large part of his euphonium career was in 2004 when the performed with the People’s Liberation Army Band in Beijing. This was an important experience, because it was the first time anyone in that country had ever seen the euphonium perform as a solo. Ham had also made a similar impact on Macedonia, Bulgaria and Argentina. He appeared in euphonium solos on the radio, on public television and at national tuba and euphonium conferences.

Ham made his solo Carnegie Hall debut in April of 2009 in the concerto “Cantiphonia.” He continues now to commission new works with composers such as David Gillingham and de Meij. He is also a Yamaha performing artist, and he plays a Yamaha euphonium.

I got the opportunity to perform with Ham with both the Symphony Band and the University Band. He had an immense musical talent, he could play any note in the euphonium range and play runs cleanly. He showed how working hard at something can really pay off in the end.
At the same time, we all agreed that he was a comfortable person to work with. He never came off with a pompous attitude. He was able to simply talk with us like old friends, and it made the concert nerves disappear. He reached out to everyone, whether he got to know them or simply thanked them for being a part of such a great concert. By the end of the week, the way we familiarized ourselves with him made it seem as if he was a part of our ensemble for a long time. His solo parts blended well with the ensemble, making it a concert to remember.

The week was full of different events to showcase Ham’s talent. He started with a recital, also featuring Min Jung Kim on piano and Gary Bird on tuba. Ham played a variety of challenging pieces, whether they were fast or high in his range. He would pause and talk with the audience between pieces, and it was like he was simply having a conversation with us. It was a very loose and comfortable environment.

He continued the week by offering private lessons to students and presenting a clinic where he discussed the military. Ham’s in-residence week concluded with the concert on Thursday evening. The piece of the evening was no doubt the “UFO Concerto” by de Meij. Split into five movements, the 25-minute piece not only showcased what the soloist could do, but it also showcased what the ensemble could do with several challenging parts. “UFO Concerto” is sure to give anyone goose bumps with its beauty, excitement, and suspense. It kept the audience and musicians alike on their toes, anxiously anticipating what was to come.

Spending a week with a guest soloist or a guest composer is always exciting for the Music Department, and hosting Ham was no exception. Everyone enjoyed the experience immensely, and at the same time, there was a lot to learn from him. It is something that will be talked about for years to come.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.