An internationally-acclaimed musician and public radio host is in Bozeman this week to talk to students about making music a career. Jennifer Reason of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento recently sat down with YPR News to talk about her work attracting new classical music fans and highlighting diversity.
In MSU’s Reynolds Recital Hall, Jennifer Reason walks up to a black grand piano on a brightly lit stage. She unlocks the cover over the keys and pushes it back.
“So a really good exercise anyone’s who’s had piano lessons will recognize," she says as her fingers walk up and down the keys in a scale.
Along with being a pianist, Reason is a vocalist and music director. This week she’s teaching master classes and meeting with students to give advice about making it as a professional musician.
“They’re getting information from all sides like, ‘Music is a hobby. Music is not a real job. You’ll never make it. Two percent of the people maybe do.’ And I’m here to just demonstrate you can have a career in what you love,” she says.
When Reason is back home in Sacramento, she hosts a four-hour classical music program on Capital Public Radio. She says deciding what music to air is a balancing act.
“We look back to the warhorses like Beethoven and Mozart but look forward as well,” she says.
She says a lot of people have a hard time getting into classical music because it can feel like a dead old white man’s club. It’s hard for people to relate. That’s why she’s so excited to introduce people to contemporary composers.
“There’s composers in South America. There’s composers from Africa. There’s composers here bringing flavors of the world to this tradition and carrying it forward the same way that those dead white men did when they were alive. They were cutting-edge once, and this is our cutting-edge. There’s finally female representation, which is a passion of mine because they’ve been ignored for so long.”
Reason will perform in Livingston and Bozeman this weekend, along with MSU Faculty Mike Nelson on horn and Angella Ahn on violin. Several of the pieces in the concert were composed by women in the 1920s and '50s, including a piece by Ethel Smyth, an English composer and member of the women's suffrage movement.