Hi Jacob! Thanks for talking with us. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am from Lexington, KY and have been playing cello for 11 years. I began piano shortly before deciding I also wanted to pick up a string instrument. Of course I have studied classical cello for a long time but I have a strong interest in unconventional ways of playing it and the instruments versatility. This also goes hand in hand with my love for the human voice. I accompany singers on both piano and cello whenever I can. Lexington has a great performing arts school that I was fortunate enough to attend; there I eventually decided I wanted to pursue music as a career without a doubt. I auditioned for many colleges but ultimately I decided to go to CCM for its reputation in both the classical music world as well as the theatre scene. I knew in college I wanted to really explore the collaboration between music and theatre and I decided the best place to do that would be CCM.
You have been part of several shows at CCM in the last couple of years, including THE CRUCIBLE where your work helped set the tone for that classic play. We really enjoyed your contribution to as it helped with the overall mood of the show. Can you tell us more about your involvement with THE CRUCIBLE as well as the musical theatre and drama departments?
I have been extremely lucky to be able to be a part of many CCM productions during my time here. My first was playing cello for SPRING AWAKENING and I have continued to play in the pits since, but this year I have really been able to collaborate on a different level. Specifically the drama department, Richard Hess approached me last year about the upcoming shows and asked if I would like to be included in some way. Of course I said yes! THE CRUCIBLE was a great start to the year; I was given the chance to coach the cast on a few hymns for a great moment in the play. The townspeople were supposed to be singing outside a house that contained one of the “witches”, we were able to find a great hymn that really fit the tone of the moment and the actors actually sang it live underneath the stage. It was a very small moment in the show but I really was proud of them for that. In terms of composing the music for METAMORPHOSES, it was something that I have really never done or actually thought I would be doing. In the beginning stages I thought I would be finding pre-existing pieces that could help add to the tone of the piece. However, at our first meeting I was feeling pulled to create something very specific for the show. Once this was decided I requested to be called in once each scene was ready to be run straight through. They would do this and I would listen for whatever motifs and/or sounds the text would inspire in my mind. After the initial run was complete, I played along the second time. When that was done, the director, D. Lynn Meyers and I would talk about what worked and what didn’t. This process is how the whole show developed for me musically. As more and more of the myths were completed I was able to incorporate various recurring themes throughout and sort of weave the stories together musically. I am very happy with the product, I think it is a cohesive work and does in fact add to the drama of this great play. That being said, I have yet to write any of it down! Due to the spontaneous nature of theatre, I wanted to keep some aspect of improvisation involved. So, the whole thing currently exists only in my head. The structure of the piece every night will be the same and the themes I have created for the various myths will remain constant, however I wanted that sense of live theatre to be really present.
I can’t wait to see the show and know I will enjoy your contributions to it! METAMORPHOSES is a unique play taking classic myths and presenting them in a contemporary way. Can you tell us more about the piece?
METAMORPHOSES is such an interesting piece. It has been challenging to fully grasp exactly what it “is” when looking at the piece in segments. But pretty early in the process I began to see the overriding themes and it became clear that this is a very special work. I think this piece is really important due to the universal nature of these myths. The struggles represented in the myths are struggles that every person can relate to and understand. We are very fortunate at CCM to have such amazing facilities and collaborators to make productions really stand out. This is extremely evident with this production, the TDP department has installed a 4,000 gallon pool onstage and it is absolutely stunning. Initially I wondered if the pool that METAMORPHOSES calls for is just for “WOW” factor or if it is necessary, now I can without a doubt say that the pool is the perfect setting for the play. It illustrates the ever-changing nature of our lives so perfectly. I was also a little hesitant about adding music to a piece that is already so descriptive and visceral. I did not want to take away from the acting or any other aspects of the play. However, I think that what we have come up with for the score is really adding to the experience and is almost serving as an anchor for many of the crucial moments in the play. I have also really enjoyed working with Lynn Meyers again. We met doing the Ensemble Theatre’s production of NEXT TO NORMAL. Playing that show really meant a lot to me personally and artistically, it is still one of my favorite things that I have ever done and getting the chance to work with her on this has been great. Her understanding of these myths and the human condition has really made my job so much easier. I think that we were able to come up with a musical language and tone that helps bring METAMORPHOSES to life. I really respect her style of directing and her artistic vision. In addition to creating the score for the show, playing it live onstage is a very exciting aspect of it for me. Often times the musicians get crammed into a pit or another room entirely on Broadway, but getting the chance to be a part of the magic right in front of the audience is something that I really enjoy and cannot wait to do!
I will be graduating in April (which is a year early)! After graduation I plan to move to NYC to pursue a career in Musical Theatre Music Direction. I really hope to continue in this trend of collaboration and I think Music Direction is the perfect fit for me. I also have a duo with Jessica Hendy (Diana from ETC’s NEXT TO NORMAL) called J STRING where we reinvent pop songs with my cello and her voice. We have done a few live concerts at various venues and can be found on YouTube if you search either of our names. When I move to NYC I hope to continue to create and perform with her. Before I go I will be giving my senior recital on cello on March 27 (8:45 pm in Watson Recital Hall at UC-CCM) and will also be playing cello for Les Miserables!
Thank you, Jacob, for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. We can’t wait to see this show on Friday night!
METAMORPHOSES opens officially on Thursday, February 6th (with a preview on Wednesday night) and runs through Sunday afternoon. Tickets are available at the CCM Box Office.
Jacob Yates and Jessica Hendy perform “Titanium”