Guitarist Jiji ’17MM, who studied with faculty guitarist Benjamin Verdery at the Yale School of Music and is now associate Professor of Music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, returned to campus recently to give a master class. We caught up with Jiji to talk about her work as a performer and educator.
Q: What’s your advice for young musicians who want to pursue careers in performance?
A: It's all about being a versatile musician and wearing many hats. You can't just lock yourself in a practice room and expect success. Get out there, attend shows, see what's happening in the music world right now. Find your inspiration and pave your own path. I know it might sound like a cliché, but there's no one-size-fits-all formula for a successful career. Experiment, fail, try different things—school is the place for that!
Q: What is your approach to teaching and how does that relate to your approach to performing?
A: Teaching and performing, they're like two peas in a pod for me. I'm always in this mode where I'm thinking about my own voice and what I want to bring to the stage. I've spent a good chunk of time in conservatory settings, so I know what it's like to be a student finding their own voice. We're all unique, so I'm all about helping students discover their own voice. Teaching is more than just techniques and interpretation; it's about supporting their dreams. Ben was a huge support in my journey, and it's a big part of how I teach now.
Q: What do you look for when commissioning new works for the guitar? Does commissioning new music influence your own composition practice?
Well, it's a bit of a mixed bag. I'm always on the lookout for interesting projects and themes when I approach composers. It's funny, looking back, I've always had some sort of personal connection with the composers I work with. Maybe it's because creating music is such an intimate process. It's like a commitment thing, you know? I get inspiration from all sorts of places, so yeah, commissioning new music definitely influences my own compositions. But most of my work is inspired by pop music, so sometimes it's hard to pinpoint.
Q: What’s your approach to incorporating technology into your work?
When it comes to performing and creating, I'm all about using Ableton. I use it to compose, record, and make some weird sounds. I've done some interdisciplinary collaborations, using Ableton to produce some cool weird sounds, which you can check out here. In my recitals, I often perform with my laptop and live processing, blending classical and electric guitar with pieces that involve electronics. In teaching, I currently run a class at Indiana University called "Media and Performance." We dive into using DAWs like Ableton and Logic X. This sets us up for some cool interdisciplinary projects. This semester we are working with the dance and astrophysics departments. It's a wild ride to see my students go from not knowing how to use DAWs to creating something amazing.
Q: Who’ve you been listening to and inspired by recently?
A: Jane Remover, I am totally obsessed with her. The new album Census Designated is incredible. It's just like ... a mix of everything. It's INTENSE.