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Jherrard Hardeman

Jherrard Hardeman's enthusiasm and passion for music started early in life. The Birmingham Groves High School class of 2015 graduate was recently named assistant conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in Rochester, N.Y.

Growing up in Detroit, Birmingham and Beverly Hills, Hardeman began playing guitar at age seven and composing music about five years later. “I started composing in seventh grade and got a lot of ideas out quickly – tons of pieces the public will never hear,” he said laughingly.

According to Hardeman, he composed his first symphony in eighth grade with the intention of having it performed at Michigan’s Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp that summer. He arrived at camp very prepared, and his instructor agreed that they could perform the score – but said he had to conduct it.

“There were about 80 people in the string section, and I wrote enough parts for everyone. It was a lot – but afterward I received positive comments about style.

“Somehow at age 13 I knew that was important.”

While Hardeman’s primary instruments are violin and viola, he said he realized he wanted to be a conductor in high school and expresses appreciation that Groves’ Director of Orchestras, Paul Shawver, provided him with many opportunities during that time. “The arts program at Groves is alive and well and really should be a model for the state.”

He adds, “I’ve had tons of encouraging music mentors over the years. Whatever I wanted to learn, there was someone to teach it and my mom found them. Even if there was no way, she made a way.”

After high school, Hardeman continued his musical education in Music Theory and Composition at Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to his new position in Rochester, N.Y., he is also working on a certificate program at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston to “help see things from other perspectives and understand what I do on a deeper level.”

Hardeman has conducted numerous orchestras across the country and continues to compose music. Prior to his current position, Hardeman was with the Chicago Sinfonietta.

“It’s been an extraordinary year of auditions for me – two amazing jobs in one year. Really an embarrassment of riches. But just like it says in the Bible in Luke [12:48] ‘to whom much is given, much is required’,” he explained.

“I enjoy conducting because I gravitate to feeling responsible for things we do as a group. If I’m doing my job well, I can make 80 people in the orchestra have a great time. If I do my job really well, the whole audience will open up to seeing the world as another person, another perspective. This is important as our collective empathy as a society has diminished,” he noted. “I believe a beautiful, enjoyable, thought-provoking symphony at its best can be a microcosm of what society can look like, heartened by the majority of the people who want to do good together with ego left out.”

For those aspiring to a career in music, Hardeman offered, “You need to ask yourself ‘Why do I want to do this?’ ‘What is it I want people to come away from a performance thinking?’ and ‘What can I give to the world?’ As a musician, you put lots of love and work into what you do, but at times you feel the craft doesn’t love you back. You really need the heart of a servant and be able to connect music to a deeper sense of being alive.”

Story: Tracy Donohue

Photo: Elliot Mandel


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