Senior Music Student Joseph Jessee Speaks on Finishing His Degree Virtually

Joseph Jessee, a senior at E&H double majoring in Vocal Performance and Music Education, who is working on preparing his senior recital material remotely due to COVID-19.

Bella Jessee

Joseph Jessee, a senior at E&H double majoring in Vocal Performance and Music Education, who is working on preparing his senior recital material remotely due to COVID-19.

Joseph Jessee, a senior at Emory & Henry, is double majoring in vocal performance and music education, as well as working on his masters in education. As a student of the arts, he has experienced many changes in his academic life on campus this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Any form of music classes, they’re all online,” Jessee said. “Except choirs, but it’s very informal this semester.”

Jesse is finishing both of his bachelor’s degrees this December and is currently focusing on preparing material for his senior recital, which he is having to do completely virtually.

“I wanted my senior recital to be this semester. COVID made that very very difficult because when the school shut down there was a lot of confusion and a lot of complicated issues that basically led to not a lot of work being able to be done last semester,” he said. “That puts a lot on me because now, as a senior who has to do his recital, I basically have to get fifty minutes of [repertoire] ready. A typical person would do that in a year, but I have more like three or four months to truly get that rep together.”

Along with his recital, Jessee also has to perform a hearing in front of music professors that will be graded. He does not know yet if his hearing will take place in person, but he has serious doubts that that would be possible.

“I could only foresee one way of doing that, and that would be if we were in the chapel or the McGlothlin Center for the Arts and they were sitting in the far back while I was onstage, which could happen. It would be doable, but it would be nothing like my junior recital hearing,” he said.

Like other art students, the aspect of online learning that has disrupted Jessee’s education the most is lack of access to materials he would typically need.

“What we can do is very limited. For example, for practice rooms in Byars, you have to reserve them at the beginning of the semester, and then they also have to have an hour in between each person’s rehearsal, minimum, so that they can clean the room, which obviously limits the amount of time you can practice,” Jessee said.

While Jessee is still working on his recital, he admits that he is a little disappointed that he will not be able to share his hard work with everyone in a traditional setting.

“Things like live streams exist, but it’s not the same as a classical performance,” he said. “It is kind of a bummer, mostly because this is kind of my last ‘hoorah’ in this major.”

Even without COVID, Jessee does not think music majors get enough credit for all of the work that is required to obtain their degree.

“Music majors have it a lot harder than people seem to realize. People do not understand the complexity of our degree. It is literally one of the most intricate and complex degrees that you can pursue in an undergrad setting. From the moment you walk on campus, you’re in ensembles, you’re in primary coursework.”

Jessee feels the arts are often overlooked, but he is a firm believer in their importance in society.

“The arts shape culture. There is not a single person that I know that does not experience some art form during the day, and yet the arts are still consistently looked down upon,” he said.

As far as future plans, Jessee is passionate about singing and performing and is continuing to work on his skills so that he can use them professionally after he graduates.

“I’m working on a lot of contemporary solo work. I’m just trying to find an outlet for my music personally. Whether that be a big scale or a small scale, I do plan on performing a lot. That’s just what I do. It’s really where I thrive.”

All of Jessee’s hard work will be on display at his senior recital, which will be available to view on YouTube and Facebook after its completion later in this semester.