A versatile musician, educator, and entrepreneur, conductor Jason Tramm offers his many talents in service to music as well as audience engagement and expansion. He serves as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor with MidAtlantic Artistic Productions, and in the summer months, as Director of Music in Residence of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. In addition, he is the Music Director of two acclaimed community choral societies: the Morris Choral Society and the Taghkanic Chorale. An accomplished educator, he teaches voice and conducting at Seton Hall University where he also works as Director of Choral Activities. And he does it all while being a devoted dad to his four gifted children.
I have known Jason since his years as Artistic Director of the New Jersey State Opera (2008 – 2012) and have always been impressed by the unique nuances and dimensions he uncovers when conducting a work, be it an opera or a symphony. Always active, collaborative, and churning out one creative idea after another, he is not letting isolation stop him. On the contrary, Jason is exploring new ways to serve his art and connect to his audiences, students, and colleagues. Discover more about Maestro Tramm and his work on his website and YouTube channel.
As an active conductor who is used to frequent performances and travel, how are you coping in these times?
These have been challenging and uncertain times for us all. I normally have five to seven standing rehearsals per week, teach at Seton Hall University, and maintain a busy guest conducting schedule. I am used to interacting with hundreds of musicians every week. What I have missed the most is the direct contact with people. In the very quick shift to virtual meetings and rehearsals, where learning and mastering the technology was crucial, some of the magic of music making is lost. In May and June alone I have had a choir tour of Scotland and England cancelled, along with six concerts at my university and my work with two community choral societies. My orchestral debuts in Vienna and Prague have been rescheduled, and an Italian opera festival appearance cancelled. Each of these is a loss, and combined, they add to the tapestry of loss that we are all feeling.
What creative initiatives are keeping you busy?
I have quickly learned to hold Zoom rehearsals, which despite limitations of the software, have been important in keeping the singers and musicians engaged with music during this period. I have also learned to make “virtual choir” videos, where individual singers and musicians record their parts and I can edit them into a performance that we can share. Keeping music relevant to the musicians and audiences that I serve has been central in my work. This has forced me to re-examine my role as a conductor and educator, and learn new skill sets to adapt to these challenging circumstances. I have also decided to start a weekly podcast, “Music Matters 2020 with Jason Tramm,” which will begin in June. I will host and interview performing artists, educators, writers, and others on the current state of affairs in the music and cultural landscape of 2020, exploring how we, as creative artists, can adapt and thrive.
You have conducted extensively in New York City. Tell us about your special relationship with this unique cultural capital of the world. What has New York City meant for your art and your career?
Having grown up in suburban New York (Rockland County), I have been exposed to the magic of New York City for my entire life. As a conductor, my debuts in important venues in New York City have been defining moments in my career: Carnegie Hall, Geffen Hall, Merkin Hall, among others. There is always a special energy that I feel whenever I make music in this city. As a world capital in classical music, I always feel the weight of a discerning audience. This is exciting to me, as I am constantly seeking to explore new musical possibilities and collaborations.
You are a father of four. How are you managing to keep the balance between your work and fatherhood?
I have always had tremendous energy and a drive to involve myself in a wide variety of artistic pursuits. My role as a father has been a constant source of strength and stability for me. As a single father of four children for almost a decade, I have had to become an expert at planning and scheduling. Now that my children are in their teens (and my oldest is 20), they are a part of my artistic and business activities. My son Quinton, the twenty-year old, has created my website, YouTube channel, and does all of my video work. My daughter, Rosalyn, has become a wonderful photographer and works on my social media accounts. My love for my kids has been a crucial constant in the ever-changing ups and downs of an artistic career.
How do you keep instrumentalists and singers motivated and upbeat during this time?
Keeping engaged with musicians is important and so is finding projects that are uplifting and collaborative. I will continue to explore ways to engage my community and keep music alive in the hearts and minds of both my musicians and the audiences that I serve.
What is the first thing you are looking forward to when this is all over?
Sitting down with colleagues and friends to discuss music and future collaborations. Magic happens when creative minds come together. Zoom is a fine tool, but there is no substitute for the in-person energy of friends and colleagues, just like there is no substitute for live music and art.
Top photo: Jason Tramm rehearsing for his debut concert at Carnegie Hall in 2015.
All photos are courtesy of Jason Tramm.