About / Artist's Statement
My primary objective with composing is to write music that touches the heart, the human spirit. To do this, I have worked to develop a style that is broadly accessible but with the capacity to express emotional depth.
Most of my music is quite dramatic and deals with core life issues: purpose, having faith in the face of adversity, choosing right in the face of opposition, walking into one's destiny – always with themes of hope, reconciliation, renewal, and restoration. Rahab and Beneath Suspicion are two examples of this.
But some of my music is the polar opposite: cheery, toe-tapping music meant to be fun, with bright harmonies and energetic syncopations, pieces such as Shinkansen, The Dancing King, and Waldstein Express.
Like many current-day composers, I teach at the university level. Teaching has never been a drudgery "day job" for me, but a passion. I come alive in the classroom. Other than writing music and hearing it performed, I can't think of a more gratifying, enjoyable way to spend a working day than with bright, talented college music students discussing how music is put together.
In my almost 40 years in the university classroom, I have had the privilege to mentor hundreds of young adults through that scary transition from teenager to adult. I now have former students from Maine to Los Angeles, Chicago to Mississippi.
JESSE AYERS was the winner of the inaugural American Prize for Composition in 2011 and winner of the the 2016 Opera Kansas Zepick Modern Opera Composition Competition. His music has been performed in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Portugal, and more than 100 U.S. cities. His music has been performed by the Akron Symphony, the Michigan Philharmonic, the Yakima Symphony, university orchestras and concert bands, and has been selected on two occasions by the International Society for Contemporary Music to represent the United States at the prestigious World Music Days festival. He is best known for his orchestral and symphonic band "surround-sound" concert stories that explore the intersection of the spiritual and natural worlds and the redemptive intervention of God in the affairs of the human race.
Most recently, Dr. Ayers received the 2020 Ohio Governor's Award for an Individual Artist and was named the 2019 Ohio Music Teachers Association Composer of the Year. In 2018, Ayers received his sixth and seventh Finalist awards from the American Prize, both works garnering additional special citations. In 2014, Dr. Ayers was named an "Honored Artist" of the American Prize. That same year he received his second Individual Artist Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, and in 2015, both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate presented Dr. Ayers with citations for “tremendous attainment.” In both 2014 and 2013, Ayers was a double finalist for the American Prize. In 2013, he won the Boston Metro Opera’s Concert Award, and in 2011 was one of the national co-winners in the Dayton Ballet’s “New Music for New Dance” competition. In 2010, he was awarded a fellowship to compose at the MacDowell Colony. In 2004, Ayers was one of five American composers selected to participate in the “Essentially Choral Reading Sessions” in Minneapolis conducted by Philip Brunelle, and in 2003, was one of six American composers whose music was selected to represent the United States at World Music Days.
Recent commissions include those from the Akron Symphony, the Indiana Bandmasters Association, the Ohio Music Teachers Association, Soprani Compagni, Milligan College, the Ohio Private Colleges Instrumental Conductors Association, and the Wisconsin Lutheran National Honors Band.
Ayers has been a guest composer on university campuses in Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Colorado, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, and Tennessee.
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ayers began composing in his early teens, and at age 17 was invited by the legendary WJ Julian to conduct the University of Tennessee's top concert band in a performance of his first work for band. Ayers matriculated to the University of Tennessee for his undergraduate and Master’s work, where he studied with David Van Vactor, John Anthony Lennon, and Donald Neuen. Ayers holds the doctorate in music composition from the University of Kentucky.
Ayers holds the rank of Professor of Music Emeritus from Malone University, where he was twice awarded the school's Distinguished Faculty Award. Prior to that, he taught at Knoxville College in Tennessee from 1982-1997.
Short Bio (long bio below)
JESSE AYERS was the winner of the inaugural American Prize for Orchestral Composition in 2011, and winner of the the 2016 Opera Kansas Zepick Modern Opera Composition Competition. Recent honors include the 2020 Ohio Governor's Award for an Individual Artist, the 2019 Ohio Music Teachers Association Composer of the Year Commission, two Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Excellence Awards, the 2011 Dayton Ballet “New Music for New Dance" award, a 2010 MacDowell Fellowship, and seven "Finalist" awards from the American Prize in addition to his 2011 First Place. His music has twice been selected to represent the United States at the prestigious World Music Days festival. His works have been performed in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Portugal, and more than 100 U.S. cities. Recent commissions include those from the Akron Symphony, Soprani Compagni, the Indiana Bandmasters Association, the Ohio Private Colleges Instrumental Conductors Association, the Wisconsin Lutheran National Honors Band, and Milligan College. Much of his music is scored for large "surround-sound" forces and explores the intersection of the spiritual and natural worlds and the redemptive intervention of God in the affairs of the human race. Common themes in his music are hope, reconciliation, renewal, and restoration. Ayers holds the rank of Professor of Music Emeritus from Malone University, where he was twice awarded the school's Distinguished Faculty Award. Ayers holds the D.M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Kentucky, and the M.M. and B.Mus. in Music Composition from the University of Tennessee.
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