Composer and organist JOSEPH KERN (b.1987) hails from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Susquehanna Valley. Most of his life before attending college was surrounded by rural and small-town living, church activities, American Rust Belt history, and traveling the northeast United States. All of these things have and continue to influence his musical life and career.
His major musical influences have been the works of Mahler, Beethoven, Bach, and Ives and Kern’s music seeks to be as honest as possible while drawing from these influences. It often combines layers, simple motives, bitonality, and large scale forms within the realm of his own voice and it has taken a step away from the over programmatic to the more absolute. As an active organist, he has become familiar with a large repertoire of hymns and finds a deep connection to early American hymns and specifically those from the Sacred Harp tradition. These are often quoted or distorted within the fabric of his works.
His music has seen performances throughout the United States and Italy; which included a performance of his De profundis during high mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. Shenandoah Variations, a work for solo flute and orchestra, was premiered by Hannah Porter Occeña and the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Beverly Everett. His choral music has seen premiers by Grammy Award winning conductors: De profundis premiered by Robert Shafer and the Shenandoah Conservatory Choir and Crucifixus premiered by Jerry Blackstone and the University of Michigan Chamber Choir.
Chamber Symphony, as performed by the Midwest Chamber Ensemble was the third place finalist for the The American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award in the performance of American music. Crucifixus for large choir and soloists was named the first winner of the Brehm Prize is Choral Composition in 2011. Rusted Mechanism won the 2012 Gerald Kemner Prize in Orchestral Composition Competition as well as a finalist in the 2011 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. Also in 2012, Iron City was a finalist in UMKC Chamber Composition Competition.
Before receiving his DMA from the University of Missouri - Kansas City, Joseph received his Bachelor of Music in Composition from Shenandoah University and his Master of Music from the University of Michigan. His teachers have included William Averitt, Michael Daugherty, Kristin Kuster, James Mobberley, Chen Yi, and Zhou Long and has studied organ with Steven Cooksey and Elisa Bickers. He is currently the organist for Colonial Church (UCC) in Prairie Village, Kansas, adjunct faculty at Johnson County Community College, and was the Composer-in-Residence with the Midwest Chamber Ensemble for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons.