Composers Jesse Jones and Elizabeth Ogonek have been appointed to the Oberlin Conservatory faculty as assistant professors of composition. They join Grammy-winning Professor of Composition Stephen Hartke, who serves as chair of the department.
Though both have been extensively lauded for their work, Jones and Ogonek boast very different musical paths, which converged over the past year at Oberlin.
“Elizabeth and Jesse offer two of the most distinctive and individual compositional voices of their generation,” says Hartke, who was appointed to the conservatory faculty in 2015 after a long career at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. “Both of them bring their own broadly based perspectives on the many paths that our students find themselves exploring.”
Familiar to many on the Oberlin campus, Ogonek has served as a visiting member of the conservatory faculty for 2015-16. Often inspired by text, she frequently collaborates with emerging writers, including Sophia Veltfort, Ghazal Mosadeq, and Jonathan Dubow.
Recent commissions for Ogonek have included works for the London Symphony Orchestra and François-Xavier Roth, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for which she is the Mead Composer in Residence. Ogonek has previously composed works for Ensemble 360, the Flux Quartet, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, and the Brillaner Duo.
Ogonek earned a DMus from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, a master of music at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, and a bachelor of music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. A former Marshall Scholar, she has been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Royal Philharmonic Society, among other accolades.
“To say that I'm brimming with excitement at the thought of staying at Oberlin is the greatest understatement of the year,” says Ogonek. “I’m grateful to have found an incredible home with my colleagues in the composition department, the contemporary music division, and the conservatory at large. The enthusiasm and curiosity that I encounter with my students every day is absolutely thrilling. It is with great eagerness that I look forward to the wonderful years ahead!”
A seasoned composer, conductor, and mandolinist, Jesse Jones has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Elliott Carter Rome Prize in Composition from the American Academy in Rome, and commissions from the Juilliard String Quartet, Tanglewood, Barlow, and others. His music has been performed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
In January 2016, Jones’ piece One Bright Morning was given its North American premiere by the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble in a performance at Roosevelt University in Chicago, part of Oberlin Conservatory’s 150th anniversary tour. In late 2015, Jones visited the Oberlin campus for a preview performance of his work.
“When I first visited Oberlin, I was bowled over by the immense skill, artistry, and enthusiasm of both the students and faculty,” he says. “I was equally astounded by the artistic depth and craft of Oberlin’s composition students, whom I had the pleasure of teaching during that visit. Each composer possessed finely developed skills and a passion for musical expression that I had not previously witnessed in undergraduates. I understood then that Oberlin is a very special place, where true artistic exchange between teacher and student can take place. I am thrilled to teach and create in such a vibrant and supportive environment.”
Jones earned a DMA in music composition at Cornell University, a master’s degree in composition at the University of Oregon, and a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Oregon University. He previously served as assistant professor of composition and theory at the University of South Carolina.
“We are very much a performance-based composition department: Actually hearing your music played—and played well, thanks to the wonderful instrumentalists we have here—is central to the training we offer,” says Hartke, whose composition Meanwhile, commissioned by the Oberlin-founded ensemble eighth blackbird, won a Grammy Award in 2013. “Elizabeth’s work with the Chicago Symphony and Jesse’s crossover work as a professional mandolinist are just two of the many extra dimensions that they bring to our program at Oberlin.”