Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 16, 2014

Lockport grad makes splash in music

Music by Jeremy Van Buskirk, city native, to be played at Chicago music festival

By Michael Canfield michael.canfield@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Trying to carve out a career in music can be an unpredictable path to take, and Lockport native Jeremy Van Buskirk had his detractors. He also had people in his life who encouraged him to follow his passion for music, and while he gleaned some motivation from the people saying he couldn’t make it work, the teachers who encouraged him were invaluable. 

“Thankfully there were also positive voices,” he said, noting that his parents were a bit apprehensive of his proposed career choice. “To their credit, they supported it.”

Now the 40-year-old musician and composer holds a doctorate degree in music composition from Boston University and serves as a faculty member at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Mass. Van Buskirk has had his music performed by numerous orchestras and ensembles throughout the country.

On April 8, he will have an original composition played by the Harker School Orchestra, a private high school orchestra from San Jose, Calif., at the fourth annual Chicago International Music Fest. 

“It’s a great collaboration,” he said. “It combines my passions. I get to write music, which is not something I do everyday, and they get to play something new.”

Van Buskirk lives just outside of Boston in Stoneham, Mass. with his wife, Mariko Matsumura, and two daughters, 4-year-old Mina and 8-month-old Mei. His wife is “a wonderful soprano,” he said, and his family is the one thing that means more than music. 

“Music is one of the things that brought us together,” he said. 

Growing up on Grant Street, Van Buskirk went to Lockport schools and graduated from Lockport High School in 1991. His mother, Linda, still lives on Grant Street, and he comes back to Lockport once or twice a year, usually during the holidays, he said. 

Van Buskirk’s interest in music stems from his parents taking him to see the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra when they played concerts at Lockport High School.

“As I got into high school and my interest in music grew, seeing and experiencing the Buffalo and Rochester orchestras was great,” he said. “They played the music that was more recent.”

After taking piano and saxophone lessons, Van Buskirk started playing the bass when he was 12, and his love of composing and improvising music took hold. Originally wanting to be a professional bass player, he eventually decided to share his passion with other people through teaching while studying for dual master’s degrees in composing and modern American music at Longy School of Music. 

“I’m passionate about music and wanted to tell others about it,” he said. “Instead of telling my friends why it’s so great, I get to do that in a classroom.”

Along with writing classical music, Van Buskirk also writes music that is designed to be played through speakers; he specializes in music technology. His CD of electroacoustic music, titled “For the Love of Laughter,” was released in 2010 on Tell-Tale Music Media. The CD is available on iTunes as well as on Tell-Tale Media’s website. 

“I think part of anyone engaging in art is that they want to share it,” he said. 

While it wasn’t easy making a career in music, it’s been well worth the hardships, Van Buskirk said, adding that there were times when he couldn’t pay his rent. His hope is that his music inspires someone in the audience the same way he found inspiration in seeing orchestras play when he was younger.

“I hope to be able to pay that experience forward,” he said. 

Van Buskirk has some advice for people who want to follow their passion, but may be hesitant to do so. 

“I didn’t want to regret not giving it a shot,” he said. “If you truly love something and truly dedicate yourself to it, the money will follow.”

Contact reporter Michael Canfield at 439-9222, ext. 6246, or follow him on Twitter @MikeCanfield36.