by Charlotte Brockway
Associate Professor of Music, Jason Bishop will leave Drew University at the end of the semester to lead a new youth chorus in Austin, Texas. The organization dubbed Young Voices of Austin was founded by philanthropist and former hedge fund manager Steve Kuhn.
Bishop joined Drew in 2012 and taught Choral and Vocal studies. He also led and directed the highly acclaimed Chorale and large Choral Union. Reminiscing about his remarkable legacy, Bishop says, “I think it’s difficult when anyone at any job is asked to reflect on what they themselves have done. A lot of people have done a lot of things. What I’m happiest about is that we have a really thriving program here. We have an ensemble that is very much community based. It’s a reflection of not just the Drew community but the community surrounding Drew. In the Choral Union, we have that kind of ensemble. I also like that Chorale is a place for students who come to Drew with perhaps a lit bit more choral experience in their backgrounds and they have that outlet. They have that opportunity to make a longer or bigger commitment to the choral program by virtue of being in two ensembles.I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of the works that we have been able to perform in the past 4 and a half years. We have really run the gamut. I think with major works for chorus and orchestra but also versatility, especially in Choral Union of being able to move between pieces like Mozart Requiem, Poulenc Gloria and smaller works as well. I’m very proud of how much a community overall has developed in the choral program here and especially between the choral program and the a cappella ensembles where there’s a lot of overlap of members and we talk a lot at events about the choral community, the choral vocal community at Drew, which is more than me and is more than the choral ensembles.”
In his remaining time at Drew, Bishop intends to continue to do what he loves doing – which is to keep working with the ensembles and to have mutual relationships of inspiration.“I’m trying to find a way to continue inspiring the singers to do their best,” said Bishop, “but also the singers continue to inspire me. I don’t want anything to change, just because my days are numbered, so to speak, and I don’t want anything to change just because of that. I plan to just keep doing the same work the best way I know how until the next person comes in and does the work the best way they know how.”
Bishop starts as artistic director for Young Voices of Austin on Jan. 1. Bishop also expressed his difficulty in making such a transition from Drew to Austin.
“Everybody knows, ‘cause I’ve said it publicly,” said Bishop, “the decision to move on to another position, to leave Drew, was…there’s no doubt in my mind it was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to make. It’s possible that it is the hardest decision I’ve ever made. It certainly took a long time–it actually took me about six months to reach the conclusion before I shared the news publicly at Drew that I was going to accept this opportunity in Austin, Texas and move on. It was not in any way easy for me and it’s because of the attachment that I have to my students here, to the ensembles, to the work that we’re doing together and the love that I have for that, that made it really hard to consider a decision that would take me away from here. I explained to the choirs it really wasn’t a matter between choosing apples and apples, it was choosing between apples and oranges in a lot of ways, because the work I’ll be doing is still choral work in this next phase, but just in a very different arena and in a very different way and something that I love very much also. It was a very, very tough choice for me.
But the thing that has been so encouraging to me is that when I told everyone about the tough decision that I had to make, they understood. I have not had any experiences of people being upset with me or angry with me. You know things can get emotional whenever there’s a transition and whenever some person that people are used to and connected with in some way moves on, things get emotional. But that doesn’t necessarily mean bad or negative. What I have found among the students here and among everyone is a remarkable maturity and a level of understanding about the decision that I’ve made. It has been very comforting for me. I appreciate that.”
Jason Bishop will surely be missed within the Drew choral community but his legacy and outstanding achievements will outlast the years for all those with a passion for singing.