Professor celebrates 50 years at MSU with football-themed music composition
Professor Jere Hutcheson’s new composition, “Midnight Voyage,” premiered Sept. 26 at Wharton Center to celebrate his 50 years at MSU — and it came with a surprise.
The piece began dreamily, slowly guiding the audience into its surreal atmosphere. Just as the listeners were lured into a dreamlike ambiance, the orchestra got louder and louder before suddenly stopping.
A noise like a referee whistle pierced the air. John Madden, director of the Spartan Marching Band, stepped up to announce the sounds of MSU football.
“This is the sound of a kickoff!” The orchestra played.
“This is the sound of a huddle!” The oboes made deep, grumbling noises to represent the players’ dialogue.
“This is the sound of a running play and a tackle!” The instruments build up, then end in a crash.
“It’s sort of surreal in that you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Hutcheson said of “Midnight Voyage.”
Though Hutcheson was a piano major in college, he took composition lessons that resulted in a few successful pieces. He heard his first compositions played by a traveling band.
“It’s nice to hear your own thoughts being played,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson decided to continue his education with a masters degree in both piano and composition.
Hutcheson eventually received his doctorate in composition at MSU and was subsequently hired as a professor in 1965. In 1975, when the head of the composition chair retired, Hutcheson took his place.
The composition professor has seen the College of Music change drastically throughout the years.
When Hutcheson first became a faculty member, the music program was a very small department in the College of Arts and Letters. The music program grew from about 200 students to 500 in the 1970s. In the late 1980s, it became a school of music, and became the College of Music in 2007 with over 600 students.
Hutcheson said he always enjoys hearing his pieces played, and said he uses it as a chance to recognize mistakes in his composition so he can go back and correct them.
“I’m very happy to have been here that many years, and maybe a few more yet,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson has enjoyed watching the music program grow, and said he has felt MSU’s support every step of the way.
“I’ve never had a project that I didn’t feel was supported by MSU or by the people in the College of Music,” Hutcheson said.
James Forger, Dean of the College of Music is often the one to find these artists and has been working with Hutcheson for 35 years now.
“Hutcheson is an inventive, creative and dedicated faculty member, who is a prolific composer and an excellent teacher,” Forger said.
Forger said Hutcheson has taught generations of students the skill of orchestration and arranging, taught and mentored many composers and created new works for many of his colleagues including the various bands, orchestras, and choirs.
One of Hutcheson’s students, graduate student Philip Rice , says that the professor’s teaching is especially effective because of his vast knowledge.
“This is due in no small part to the fact that he’s actually lived to see the last five decades of music innovation unfold,” Rice said.
Rice said Hutcheson’s library of scores and recordings is terrific. He has written pieces in many of the styles and genres that have developed over the last 50 years. For this reason, Hutcheson has a special take on how effective certain types of composition are. He always knows the perfect piece to illustrate a particular compositional technique.
“He has been collecting information all along ... the cumulative effect of that is really impressive, and really unmatched in the classroom,” Rice said.