I first became familiar with Jennifer Jolley’s works last spring whilst working on a final project for symphony band that semester. Our assignment was to create our own program and include our rationale for it, which was not a quick “15 minutes and done” assignment.
As I explored different recordings and websites for inspiration I happened upon Jolley’s “The Eyes of the World Are Upon You.” Modern, abstract pieces are not typically my cup of tea but from the very beginning the back of my neck was crawling with goosebumps and my breath couldn’t seem to find its way out of my lungs. The piece was powerful, spine-chilling, beautiful, ugly, and captivating all at once. I knew I had to include it.
After further research I discovered Jolley had written the piece about the nation’s first mass campus shooting at UT Austin in 1966, and she loves to write about “political and even provocative” subjects. Her piece “You Are Not Alone,” in collaboration with writer Scott Woods, gives melody to the raw emotion of the #MeToo movement that struck a chord with so many. However, she is not limited to one medium. She has composed beautiful, breath-taking pieces for band, orchestra, flex, vocal, chamber, and electronic ensembles, allowing her voice to be heard in many different ways. Another additional way she makes her voice heard is by posting her rejection letters on her blog.
Discussing failure is incredibly difficult for many musicians, and for many people in general. We don’t want to admit that we didn’t succeed at something. But where is the value in this? When did we learn that failure meant a cessation of effort and not a continuation of learning? Ms. Jolley is honest, vulnerable, and transparent about her failures and encourages her students at Texas Tech University to do the same. On her blog, she has posted “more than 100 rejection letters from competitions, festivals, and prizes” to help do her part in destroying the stigma.
Although I could not find a link to her blog, I am including all of her socials and links to some of my favorite works for you to peruse!