Meet the Artist: Resident Music Director J. Gawf

Aug 9, 2013

Opera Omaha’s Resident Music Director and Chorus Master, J. Gawf, is a soft-spoken, quiet man. Every morning, he enters the office greeting people as he meets them and heads for his domain of diction recording and score marking in the corner of our building. As quiet as J. is in the office, he is commanding in the rehearsal room. Our Opera Omaha chorus members will tell you that he is demanding, exacting, and unfailingly professional as a chorus master and a pianist. Our productions benefit greatly from J.’s expertise in music and proficiency in chorus preparation and conducting. We are fortunate to have him as our full-time, permanent music director.

J. answered a few questions to give you a little more insight into the man behind the music. It turns out that he likes cities and beaches, French opera, and nearly always has music running through his head. The full Q & A is below.

Q: Where do you like to travel?

A: I have been fortunate to travel much of the Northern Hemisphere and now want to concentrate on seeing the Southern cities such as Buenos Aires, Sydney and Cape Town. I always prefer cities to beaches although a combination of both is ideal! The perfect combination is a city where I can go to the beach by day and the theater in the evening.

Q: If you could conduct any piece of music, which would you choose?

A: Any French opera. Many of the French operas are no longer in the standard repertoire so we don’t have the opportunity to see/hear these very often. Love all of the Massenet works, love Poulenc, Debussy and also the rarely performed Meyerbeer operas.

Q: List three things about you that aren’t in your bio.

A: I have a passion for situation comedies. I think Seth MacFarlane is brilliant. In my waking hours I constantly have music in my head, usually the music of what I am currently working upon. When not in production, the music in my head is a grab bag of works previously performed. It’s fascinating to wait and see what will pop up next in my head, I never know.

You can catch J. in action and hear his magnificent piano stylings at three upcoming Opera Omaha events on August 10, August 30, and September 13. This Saturday, August 10, J. plays piano as Opera Omaha presents selections from John Harbison’s opera The Great Gatsby. On August 30 at 6:00pm, J. and a singer will perform using the Opera Omaha piano that is part of the Omaha Creative Institute’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” public art project in Rockbrook Village. On September 13 at 7:30pm, J. plays piano for the “Opera Outdoors” concert presented by Opera Omaha as part of Midtown Crossing at Turner Park’s “End of Summer” concert series. Don’t miss these fantastic opportunities to witness the piano stylings of the incomparable J. Gawf.

J.’s biography is varied and includes experience across the United States. This is the official version:

A native of Oklahoma, J. is currently in his 10th season as Resident Music Director with Opera Omaha and his 5th season as Chorus Master for the Opera Omaha Chorus. He has helped prepare education and outreach programs with the Omaha Symphony, Nebraska Choral Arts Society, Omaha Area Youth Orchestras, The Rose Theater, and many Omaha area high schools and middle schools. J. has, in the recent past, prepared the world premieres of David DiChiera’s Cyrano for Michigan Opera Theater, Ned Rorem’s Our Town for Lake George Opera and the Opera Omaha premieres of Anthony Davis’ Wakonda’s Dream and Paul Moravec’s The Blizzard Voices. He has also prepared works with Augusta Opera and New Jersey Opera Theater.

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