My name is Jason Michael Huffman. I currently live with my wife, Jennifer Coes, and our two cats, Willa and Penelope, in a mountain-adjacent two-family house in Malden, first ring suburb of Boston. My current interests include composing strange music, collecting and restoring/modifying old video game systems and will soon include doing the same to trumpets and other various brass instruments. I also enjoy biking (which intensified after my term as a bike messenger) and watching semi-obscure television series with an emphasis on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (I am one of the fortunate few who caught the show when it aired on KTMA in Minneapolis). Though I despise most people, I am always open to trying new things (or people in this case), so if you’d like to chat amiably, complain about my website, etc. you can reach me by substituting ‘at yahoo dot com’ for the ‘dot net’ on this webpage’s URL and sending me an email. More of my convoluted past is below for your voyeuristic reading pleasure:
I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and grew up just south of Minneapolis in a first ring suburb known as Richfield. In 5th grade I began to play the trumpet, badly. Through a great amount of effort, before I had reached Junior High, I had ascended to the coveted first chair in my public school’s band. As I moved into High School, I was elevated to the top level band in my freshman year. My senior year I discovered the wonders of youth symphonies and auditioned for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies and was given the first trumpet spot in the top orchestra. I applied to several top conservatories for both composition and trumpet majors and was accepted to Oberlin Conservatory for both. The summer before attending Oberlin, I was given the opportunity to take private lessons with Alex Wilson (I had not taken private lessons at all before this point), former principal trumpet with the Buffalo Philharmonic and who I recently discovered made the first commercial recording of the Hindemith Trumpet Sonata in 1950, who just happened to be the applied trumpet instructor at Normandale Community College, where I had been attending a program, Upward Bound, geared towards helping first generation college students get into their preferred colleges. I returned to Mr. Wilson the summer after my first year at Oberlin and he graciously offered me lessons that entire summer for no charge.
I graduated from Oberlin having attempted to carve out a niche for myself playing in the new music ensembles and in student composer recitals and concerts. I had increasingly become dismayed by the atmosphere surrounding the lives of orchestral players and composers who wrote for the orchestra, and so after graduation I began looking for something new. I moved to Boston and after a few months found work at an architecture firm. Architecture had been a long-standing interest of mine, so I sent my resume off to the 10 largest firms in the Boston area and was given an interview at Shepley Bulfinch, the oldest continuously operating firm in the United States and the firm founded by the venerable Henry Hobson Richardson. I quickly discovered that many of the things that had upset me about life in music had nearly exact analogues in life as an architect. I eventually found the call of music too strong and began planning a return.
My first step was getting a contract job at the Boston Public Library, which just so happened to be undergoing extensive renovation by the very firm I was working for. The library had recently experienced a catastrophic flood in the basement, where an immense archive of priceless recordings on various media were stored. The most irreplaceable of these recordings were hundreds of recordings of Serge Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra and recordings of all of the world premiere’s of Walter Piston‘s works. The library decided to digitize these recordings in order to attempt to preserve them in the case of another disaster. The firm hired to do this, though expert at transferring from the many outdated media types these performances were stored on, was not expert at the genre of Classical music, and had made a complete mess of both the metadata stored in each of the digital files and had in some cases split tracks at places that were not between movements of a work or had cut off portions of a work entirely. The library needed someone with extensive knowledge in the standard repertoire to listen to every file and provide the necessary corrections to the metadata, corrections to track splits and notify them of any missing music. That person turned out to be me.
Eventually I decided that the job at the architecture firm was making me too complacent in getting back into the music scene, so I quit abruptly. I quickly found work at an antiques cooperative in Inman Square in Cambridge, a wonderful place that is sadly no longer in operation. Shortly after starting work there I also began to supplement my income by becoming a bike messenger for the same company that we had used at the architecture firm, City Express. We used them so often that they even remembered me.
My very first day near the beginning of December just happened to coincide with a blizzard which blanketed all of downtown Boston. This would not have been so bad, but I was not yet familiar with every street and building address in the area and there was a thick layer of sticky snow covering nearly every street sign.
After a year of this, the dangers and 60 hour weeks got to be too much. I stopped the messengering and found work as a research assistant and general office manager for a forensic psychiatrist, Harold Bursztajn, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Bursztajn just happened to be a classical music lover and has been extremely encouraging in my quest to return to music. I owe a large debt a gratitude to him for my acceptance to Boston Conservatory‘s masters in composition program where I will start in the fall of 2008.
Since the beginning of the summer of 2007, I began practicing the trumpet again in earnest, utilizing Harvard’s practice rooms and music library with the help of my status as Dr. Bursztajn’s research assistant. I eased my way back into ensembles shortly after by playing in the Boston Repertory Orchestra, a low tension sight reading orchestra. That fall I auditioned for the principal spot in the Civic Symphony, and though I was not offered the position, my playing there was enough to get me recommended to play in several other ensembles, including the Harvard Wind Ensemble where I have been filling out their section playing and playing most of the principal parts. I have also been playing principal trumpet in the Dudley House Orchestra, Harvard’s graduate school orchestra, and through that exposure have found additional subbing work. Eventually I also started playing in the Charles River Wind Ensemble, which happens to be conducted by the head of the woodwind department at Boston Conservatory, Eric Hewitt. I was also recently recommended to fill in the principal trumpet parts in the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, one of the larger and most respected concert bands in Massachusetts, through the summer of 2008.Though I will be a composition major at Boston Conservatory, I believe that I will get some significant playing time in ensembles during my attendance there.
It has taken me a long time to get back to music, but I believe the long road has given me some unique experiences that will hopefully enrich my studies and will allow me to appreciate them in a way that I could not had I attended graduate school directly after graduation from Oberlin. We shall see.