Music man of many duties, Trevor Jorgensen says, 'It's how I'm wired'

In this issue’s Spotlight, meet music faculty member Trevor Jorgensen, who orchestrates his life around family, doctoral studies, music teaching, jazz performance, ensemble conducting and his roles as impresario of a chamber series and college assessment coordinator.

Q. Where are you from?
A. I’m originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city in the middle of Canada.

Q. What’s your earliest memory of being attracted to music and performance?
A. I would have probably been in 6th grade when I heard a saxophone player who improvised and soloed in my brother’s junior high jazz band—it captivated me. From that, it snowballed. I later heard a high school player who mimicked David Sanborn. It was between music and actuarial science, and I chose music education.

Q. Why did you choose to study in the United States?
A. I went to a jazz summer camp at the International Peace Gardens between North Dakota and Manitoba, where I worked with one of the clinicians. As a result, I did my undergraduate work in North Dakota at the University of Mary, a little arts college with a good music program.

Q. Where did you go to graduate school?
A. The University of Northern Iowa, in classical saxophone. I also ended up focusing on conducting and clarinet at the same time. During this time, I met and married my wife, and while she was finishing her degree I taught in Dike-New Hartford, Iowa, to maintain my work visa. Then I taught in Freeport, Illinois, for four years as my wife earned her master’s degree in flute performance. I took a leave and got connected to Northern Illinois University to earn my performance certificate, focusing on bassoon and oboe. That was only supposed to be a year, but the saxophone professor there asked me to cover a sabbatical, so I ended up going for an extra year. Now I’m working on my doctoral degree in music education at Boston University online.

Q. How long have you been at SUNY Oswego and what has kept you here?
A. I came in 2006-07, the (historic) snowstorm year. Why have I stayed? The people. We have students that are friendly and very eager to learn. And then the faculty: In my own department, especially, I get to collaborate with so many talented people. We all have our students’ interests in mind, as well our own professional development. So it’s very nurturing. The college itself—everyone’s willing to help out. The college has a direction and well-developed plan, such as the construction projects and renovations resulting from the capital plan, which is pretty outstanding, and our Tomorrow plan. So there is a positive direction on campus.

Q. How does renovated Tyler Hall excite you, especially in recruiting new students?
A. With the new large (instrumental) rehearsal hall and the choir room, you walk in there and they are acoustically true, they’re meant for music. Not only that, they’re aesthetically pleasing and modern. There’s the capability to do recording in any situation from a professional booth. We can have more room now to host events and bring people in. Having rooms specifically designed for music is a great advantage.

Q. What is your favorite course to teach?
A. I’m fortunate enough to teach “Applied Lessons,” essentially one-on-one teaching. I get to start with students where they’re at (musically), to work on their individual strengths and weaknesses. From that, they get to play in chamber music, where you develop friendships and you’re sharing musical ideas and communicating. I conduct wind ensemble—a large group—all these timbres and colors coming at you! It all stems from one-on-one instruction.

Q. What has the Oswego Jazz Project combo meant to you?
A. At a mid-size university like this, it’s atypical to have three professors (Robert Auler, Eric Schmitz and Jorgensen) and an adjunct (Danny Ziemann) that can play in a chamber jazz group. It is important for the students to see that you’re active as a musician and how you collaborate. We love doing it, so it’s selfish that way. But we do it for our students, so they have models, they have goals in mind. It’s been important on campus and as a recruiting tool—we’ve gone to Long Island and to Pennsylvania and Iowa and to jazz festivals. Part of it is education—we ourselves are learning and growing. This job allows me to do multiple things. That’s how I’m wired.

Q. You also coordinate Ke-Nekt, our chamber series; isn’t that a lot of work?
A. It’s been an absolute joy. It is work. But the best part is we get to bring in world-class artists to play for our students, who get to work with the artists in some capacity. Schoolchildren get to participate, too. And there’s the Ke-Nekt part—we actually get to play with the artists, connect with the artists. You get to hear their life stories and how they learned and how they approach things that you can now draw upon and pass on to your students.

Q. Why did you become assessment coordinator for the college?
A. It appeals to me. This campus is very teaching based. All of the professors I’ve talked to evaluate what they do in their courses anyway, to see what they could do better next time. It’s a logical and natural progression then to assess what you do a little more formally. I always did evaluate (my courses), but I didn’t do it to the level I do now in my own teaching. In my own classes, it makes me think in a different way, and that’s what we’re trying to bring to campus. It’s student based—what could be better than that? It’s not just “What am I going to teach?” It’s “What are the students learning?”

Q. What can you tell us about your family?
A. We have two beautiful 3-year-old twin girls, Megan and Lauren. My beautiful wife Kristen teaches Oswego elementary music band, 4-6. My girls go to Sheldon daycare (the Children’s Center). They already have made their first sound on trumpet. But we hope they don’t go into music (laughs). No, we want to give them as many opportunities as we had growing up, including sciences. They enjoy swimming, kayaking. They were on the T-ball team here on campus.

Q. What do you like to do when you need down time?
A. Golf. Four years ago, my exposure to it happened indirectly through music. There’s a bassoonist that Rob Auler brought in, and I wanted to talk to him about reed making. To play professional bassoon or oboe, you really have to make your own reeds or buy very expensive handmade ones. Rob twisted my arm to go golfing with his father-in-law and the bassoonist. Turns out I was kind of functional at golf, and after that I took up the game and I really got into it and now I do it a decent amount. There’s something about how you learn, like picking up a new sport, that we’ve now transferred to our students. It gives us perspective on how we teach. If I want to learn putting, I have different goals and different objectives. If I get frustrated, it helps me remember what it’s like to be a student learning something new.