We had the good fortune of connecting with Jasper Sussman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jasper, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Pursuing what genuinely brings me joy. Success for me means being in a position to do the things that I love in an environment where my contributions are acknowledged and appreciated. The love I have for music-making and for sharing with others the power that music has to transform us compels me to continue; it fuels not only my professional endeavors, but my personal pursuits as well. When I share my passions with others, I find that this fuels their passions, just as their joy fuels me. Of course, finding what brings you joy can be its own challenge: the trick is to prioritize listening to yourself, whatever it takes, in order to gauge the priorities that are unique to you. Although it’s not always easy to remember (I have to remind myself often), it’s you, and only you, who can determine what’s right for you.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Encapsulating one’s “story,” as though it were a singular object, is a task I simply cannot come to terms with. My artistic practices, or those bits of awareness I term “wisdom,” change shape from day to day. Yesterday, I graded ethnomusicological podcast projects, next week I’ll be leading a choir of San Diegans experiencing homelessness, and in a few months, I’ll be playing the role of Hel (the ruler of the underworld) in a new experimental opera that celebrates Nature. But the thing is, I came to these opportunities from the same vantage point; I am an artist-scholar who supports and curates spaces for socially meaningful music-making. I’ve discovered for myself that singing, composing, and engaging in collective music-making is transformative, promotes personal well-being, and enables us to build deep connections with one another. The multi-faceted work that I do is aimed at spreading these gifts in as many creative and engaging ways as I can.

As my pursuits have been, and continue to be, anything but conventional, I’ve encountered my fair share of obstacles. I share the following passage, a piece from 2018, as an acknowledgement of both the struggle and beauty of forging one’s own path.

“I was 24 years old before I was able to embrace my voice – MY voice, the voice I wanted to water and watch bloom. By that time, I had already acquired what many would deem an extensive and well-rounded musical education, but it wasn’t until I moved to a city where no one knew me (Madison, WI), where my potentially jarring and scarring sounds bleeding through thin apartment walls could remain more or less anonymous, that I truly felt comfortable exploring what has come to be my most trusted window into the psyche. Through exploring my voice without boundaries, without my own and others’ judgements, without rigid aesthetic ideals and sonic preferences, I have discovered my most powerful compositional tool, my most spiritually-connected performative vehicle of expression (fixed or free), and my most inspired topic of study (“extended” and world vocal techniques – the practices, notations, and cultures of). This ideological realignment led me to discover a multitude of inspiring artists, choral innovators, and voice scholars who have dedicated their lives and careers to freeing voicework from the confines of rigid tradition; I realized finally that I was not alone and that a path existed for my music, my research, and my voice.

Now, as I pursue my doctorate in cross-disciplinary musical research and creation (PhD) at the University of California – San Diego, I am confident in my path. It may have many alternate routes, roundabouts, and dead ends, but in continuing to compose, collaborate, perform, and document my findings, I am now solidly in a position to contribute to a changing attitude in vocal pedagogy and performance, and perhaps in greater society as well.”

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I grew up in the Midwest, so living in San Diego with its beaches, hilly streets and mountain views is still a breathtaking existence for me. Some of our (my husband and my) favorite pastimes include driving up the coast to the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Garden in Encinitas, spending an afternoon at the zoo, going whale watching (great any time of the year!), checking out a baseball game at Petco Park, or taking in the natural beauty of the sunset over the ocean at Sunset Cliffs or the many gorgeous beaches. We’d definitely take visitors to a Korean BBQ restaurant, get TJ tacos, In-n-Out burger, and fresh seafood at World Famous or Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. Belmont Park is also a favorite, as is visiting the seals at Seal Cove. And, if architecture is of interest, the Geisel Library is a must-see on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla. I haven’t spent as much time exploring Balboa Park as I would like, and there are surely countless other gems throughout the city; these are just the few we’ve enjoyed immensely so far.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We all, indeed, carry each other. My story has been molded by thousands of unique and incredible individuals, some in the form of brief encounters shock full of wisdom, and others lasting my entire lifetime. It’s my mother who has seen me through it all; her musical tastes have grown alongside my own, as she’s poured herself into my passions over the years. She and my father have always been my biggest fans. Thank you, mom and dad! And, more recently, my husband Luke has made it all seem possible; my dreams are your dreams! Additionally, many creative companions have put their trust in me and my musical and scholarly visions, leading to commissions, publications, academic and administrative positions, and performance opportunities; I am forever grateful for the trust of these companions, and I hope to provide similar opportunities for creatives like us in the future. Without this support, and the mentorship I’ve received from my incredible teachers, and the love and support I continually receive from my family and friends, I would not be the person that I am today.

Website: https://www.jasperalicekaye.com/

Image Credits
Tiange Zhou (the 3 headshots)

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