David Shernoff '02
acclaimed composer and jazz pianist Jon Jang '78 became the
second recipient in February of the Alumni Association's Distinguished
Achievement Award. A prolific composer, active performer,
and committed labor rights and race-relations activist, Jang
is a potent force within the Asian-American artistic community.
at Finney Chapel. Jon Jang and saxophonist David Murray
show how it's done. Photos by Larry Kasperak
discovered the piano at the relatively late age of 19 and
swiftly abandoned chemical engineering to focus on his musical
training. Barely two years after his first attempts at learning
the instrument, he was accepted into the Conservatory, awarded
the Lydia Lord Davis Scholarship, and in 1978 earned a BMus
degree in piano performance.
a composer, Jang has received commissions from the National
Endowment for the Arts, the Library of Congress, Kronos Quartet,
Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Chanticleer, Kulintang Arts, and
others. He composed the score for the dramatic adaptation
of Maxine Hong Kingston's landmark novel, The Woman Warrior,
staged at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Huntington Theatre
in Boston, and the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. Most
recently, he has received patronage from the Rockefeller Foundation
Multi-Arts Production Fund.
teaching a master class for students
1997 Jang has been recognized by the Downbeat Annual International
Critics Poll three times in the composer category as a Talent
Deserving Greater Recognition. In 1998, JAZZIZ named him
one of the 150 musicians in the world who have changed the
genre of jazz since 1983, and he was among the first musicians
awarded the Golden Ring in 1995. His most recent CD, Far
East Suite, recorded with the Asian American Orchestra,
was nominated for a Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble
Performance in 1999.
only a performer, he taught the first Asian-American music
course at the University of California, both at Berkeley
and Irvine in the ethnic studies department, and he directed
the advanced level jazz ensembles at Berkeley in 1997.
annual Distinguished Achievement Award goes to the graduate
who demonstrates life success that reflects Oberlin's values
in career, volunteer activities, and in life generally.
Composing a Career |