Fellowships 2019

My intention as a musician is to craft a unique and powerful experience for the listener, whether I’m composing a piece, performing, or conducting an ensemble. It is only through earnest musical creation that I can earn the listeners’ trust, time, and attention.

Three specific moments profoundly shaped this artistic philosophy. One came from an ethnomusicologist telling me about the role of a musician within ancient Turkish tribes: The musician is tasked with “collecting” sounds from the natural environment and organizing them into ritualistic musical events that would bring the listeners to a transcendental state. Another time, I was hired by a soul band made up of gospel church musicians who called it “getting the ghost” when a soloist was really on fire and became a vessel for a higher spiritual power which was flowing through them. To these musicians, the ultimate goal was to lose the self in order to make room for the divine. The third came one summer when I worked 12 hour shifts at a diaper factory, alternating between day shifts then night shifts every two weeks. Coming home once, I complained to my father that my job was taking me away from studying music. He smiled and said, “Well, now you know how much your music is worth.” He suggested that when I ask people to pay $10 at a concert or to buy my album, I’m asking them to invest the equivalent of two hours on the factory line in my music.

As I move forward in my career, I will continue to collaborate with artists and fulfill my role as a curator of culture and community in Idaho. I am conscientious about honoring the time and resources of my audience, and like the soul musicians I work consistently on the skill of releasing my ego to allow more profound energy and spirit to flow through me. I am committed to filling the role of the sound collector by creating music that presents an opportunity for a transcendent experience.

Moreover, I greatly appreciate that my musical philosophy was shaped by countless hours of meaningful interaction with fellow artists, many of them my elders. In honor of the passion and time these teachers gave me throughout my life, I am dedicated to continued development of my musical pedagogy in hopes that I might in some way inspire the next generation of musical artists. Current living musicians are simply stewards of this ancient craft, and it is imperative that we pass along the insights and epiphanies that we were given.

Jon Armstrong