Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Principal Timpanist Gives Back

Jason Haaheim '01 grants scholarships to Gustie percussioninsts
Posted on July 12th, 2018 by

Principal Timpanist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Gustavus alum Jason Haaheim '01 works with Coleden Wedge '20 during the Northland Timpani Summit.

Jason Haaheim ’01 knows that his approach to music may be a bit unconventional. At Gustavus he majored in both physics and music, but initially chose physics as his career. When he decided to leave his job at a Chicago tech firm to pursue music, part of his preparation for major symphony auditions included creating spreadsheets and mathematical equations to determine the likelihood certain pieces would be requested by audition committees. While it may be unorthodox, it worked.

In 2013, Haaheim won a job as principal timpanist of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, one of the country’s premier orchestras. Now, he’s giving back to those who inspired him to pursue music.

Jason Haaheim ’01 with current students Jonathan Hickox-Young ’20 and Coleden Wedge ’20

In 2017, he started the Northland Timpani Summit, a four day intensive program which gives serious timpanists the chance to meet for workshops, master classes, and networking. The program is held at MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. This year he offered scholarships to two Gustavus students, Jonathan Hickox-Young ’20 and Coleden Wedge ’20.

There are only a handful of programs like this available for timpanists around the country. The thing that makes Northland Timpani Summit even more unique is that it mirrors Haaheim’s liberal arts background. Instead of strictly performance related workshops like many others, his program takes a more holistic view of playing and includes sessions on practice techniques, audition preparation, and peak performance psychology.

Wedge says the summit was exciting because of the chance to learn from Haaheim’s vast knowledge on a wide variety of topics, which frequently applied beyond music to life. “Hands down, the most helpful part of the summit was talking about how to deal with nerves going into an audition and how to prepare leading up to that audition,” he says. “This is something everyone deals with on some level, not just in music.”

Haaheim says that experiences similar to this one at Gustavus were influential for him, even when he was set on the physics track with no plans to pursue music as a profession. That’s why when he met with Gift Planner Mike Nevergall earlier this year, he thought this might be a great way to give back in a different way.

Roads are long, there are lots of forks in them, and you just never know,” he says. “I am so glad I had a liberal arts background before I got more focused in music. I’m a better artist because of it and if I went back in time, I would do it all over again.”

Haaheim is hoping to further expand the workshop in the coming years and offer more scholarships to future Gustavus musicians.

 

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