Countdown to Carnegie:  Jonah Hammett’s Journey comes full circle

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May 20, 2024

Jonah Hammett giving the honghorn sign with his fingers

On June 2nd, Jonah Hammett will travel to New York with the Texas Wind Ensemble to perform at Carnegie Hall. His path to the most famous hall in the world was three generations in the making and was helped by friends, family, and colleagues. His trip to New York is truly a full-circle event on many different levels for many different people. From a supportive church to an amazing high school to a grandfather who loves music, they say it takes a village to raise a kid, especially one that plays at Carnegie Hall. This is Jonah’s village.

Church

Jonah grew up in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite in Texas, and some of his earliest experiences with music came from Royal Lane Baptist Church. Royal Lane differs from many other churches with its focus on acoustic and classical music. Jonah recalls, "They put so much importance on getting the kids involved in music at an early age," and that "As soon as I could say a word, I was in the children’s choir, and as soon as I got a horn, I was playing 'Hot Cross Buns' for the congregation."

Royal Lane Church Exterior

Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas Texas.

The Minister of Music and Worship at Royal Lane Baptist Church, Harry Wooten, was ecstatic when we called him. When I asked if he remembers Jonah, he almost couldn't comprehend the question. He said, "I have known Jonah my whole life; he is the third generation from his family to attend." He could not stress enough the talent that Jonah has and talked about his dedication, mentioning how when getting to a rehearsal, Jonah would already be there practicing well before anyone else got there. 

Family

When Jonah Hammett's grandfather, Herald Harrison, pursued music, culminating in obtaining a master's in choral conducting, little could he have predicted that his passion for music would one day pave the way for his grandson's journey to Carnegie Hall. When the time came to choose an instrument, his grandfather encouraged him to select the horn due to its versatility in playing various forms of classical music. Whenever Jonah prepares for a concert to this day, his grandfather examines the repertoire and offers insights and guidance on the music. 

Jonah Hammett standing next to his grandfather

Jonah with his grandfather Herald Harrison

High School

In high school he decided to pursue music professionally after playing a piece that changed his life. Jonah pinned down the moment saying "The pivotal moment for me in high school was playing an arrangement of John Mackey's Wine-Dark Sea." The performance was so successful that they advanced to the state level, where Jonah realized that "It struck me as such a powerful moment, and that's when I realized I wanted to do this professionally in some way, shape, or form."

He will get to relive this life-changing moment at Carnegie Hall when the wind ensemble closes their program with Wine-Dark Sea. "Being able to play this on its anniversary, on the wind ensemble's anniversary in New York, is going to be a pretty special moment," Jonah recalls, viewing it as "So many full-circle moments that I am really looking forward to."

Butler School of Music

Jonah decided to apply to the Butler School of Music, but the transition came with some setbacks. His reasons for choosing the Butler School of Music were simple: "Professors Junkin and Hughes are the sole reasons that I decided to come to UT." However, getting to work with Junkin took some effort. When a high school instructor found out that Jonah was accepted into the Butler School of Music, they remarked, "It's a shame because you will never get a chance to play in the wind ensemble. They are too good and will not accept undergraduate or music education students”.  Unfortunately, for Jonah, that instructor was right. Jonah auditioned for the wind ensemble and did not get in. Despite this setback, he was accepted to play as an assistant on the last concert of his first semester, performing Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. Jonah recalls, "Playing this piece literally blew my mind. I didn't know we could sound this good in a group." He knew that he had to be a permanent part of the wind ensemble, so he said, "I changed my practice habits and practiced so hard that I made it into the group the next semester." After getting in and playing with the Wind Ensemble he recalls walking on stage, thinking, "This is it. If this is the biggest thing I ever do, that would be okay." Reflecting on that first life-changing performance and the chance to play the piece again in Carnegie Hall, he remarked, "I get to play Festive Overture as our first piece in Carnegie Hall. It's just such a full-circle moment."

three people playing the horn in a concert

Jonah Hammett playing Festive Overture in his first Wind Ensemble concert in 2021 

Carnegie Hall

When Jonah steps on stage at Carnegie Hall, he will have the village from his life watching or thinking about him. When he found out that he was going to be playing in the concert, he said, “I called my parents and I said I can’t believe we're going.” The next person on the list to find out was his grandfather, who was “really excited” and I am sure had a full-circle moment himself. Harry Wooten and the Royal Lane Baptist Church had already heard about the concert when we talked to them and will be thinking of Jonah during the concert. Unfortunately, his grandfather will not be able to make the trip to New York but his parents and brother will be in the audience and will be sending constant pictures and news back.

 

If you are going to be in New York for the Concert and would like to go there is a 40% off discount code that people can use on the Carnegie Hall website to purchase tickets:  DIS44417

 

 

 

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Students Bands Brass, Woodwinds, Percussion Horn Events