A Tribute

22 Nov

To each of the PSU alumni featured in this blog,  I asked a simple question: “What does PSU mean to you?  Most responses easily fit into the brief profiles in my daily blog posts.  The response from singer  John Short was not one of those.  His tribute to PSU Professor David Jimerson is the kind of deeply felt testament that any  teacher or mentor might hope for, and an appropriate reflection for a day like today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Darrell Grant


“To this very date, no teacher I’ve ever had or known has had a more profound impact on my life as a singing-actor or as a human-being than PSU’s priceless treasure, Professor Emeritus, David Jimerson. David’s remarkably knowledgeable & talented guiding hand, generosity & sheer humanity has touched not just my own life, but that of countless other fortunate singers & musicians who have toured the halls of PSU. His ability as a performing-teacher to tap into each individuals gifts, life situation, capacity, potential & personality cannot be over-estimated: he is absolutely unique to the state of Oregon, the greater Portland area & the Pacific Northwest”

“As a performer, David Jimerson was/is a world-caliber talent who could hold his own on the operatic stage with international artists of the greatest renown, the very highest level. As a singer of oratorio & symphonic works, his reputation & experience speaks for itself: there was nothing beyond his musical, vocal or technical skill in the standard or the extremely difficult modern orchestral repertory. As a concert recitalist, a singer of art song digging deeply into the challenging words & music in varied languages & styles, I’ve never encountered his superior in over 20+ years living in NYC & living for long periods of time in LA & SF. Still, all of that sincere hero-worship aside, it’s his service & quality as a voice-teacher that means the most to singers, the technical, musical, linguistic & stylistic instruction, the gift & wisdom to know when to say “what & when, as well as Yes or No” without pushing OR (especially in my case) stifling of any given singers spirit & desire to grow, test limits & expand horizons. Singers, of profound necessity, MUST go to school where they can receive the best instruction for their individual talents no matter the importance of reputation or curriculum of ANY particular university, so that what most likely will be the real beginning, the foundation, of both their musical intellect & their vocal skill, will be built solidly & properly: there is NOTHING more important to/for a young singer than that – the getting off to a “good start” – however long it takes them to ultimately realize OR accept that fact, its very functional reality & the artistic values that should accompany that journey.”

I believe that BECAUSE of David Jimerson’s remarkable abilities & my initial studies at PSU, I got that.

I work frequently with talented young singers from all over the world & obviously the USA. It is troubling how few of them seem to have truly gotten the all-important basic proper vocal guidance, no matter the prestige of where they got any of their expensive degrees from: constantly I encounter singers in their late 20’s or mid-30’s having to start over, vocally/technically speaking, many of whom are already over a $100k in debt with severely damaged vocal-psyches & diminished spirits. It’s a VERY rough, often discouraging business being an operatic singer, fairness seldom figures into the outcomes of peoples lives no matter how hard they work or what they sacrifice along the way, irrespective of the level of talent they possess. Nothing could ever get David Jimerson to flinch from making that clear from the first day of study so that each & every individual went forward into the pursuit of a career in singing with no illusions or false expectations: so that service to one’s art, the love & respect of music & words, are sought as being “its own reward.” The incredible pain, yearning, profound foolishness & wisdom that are in all of these great works of art, was honored as THE value under his tutelage, no matter an individuals success or accomplishment. I’ve come to believe that those are very courageous values he instilled in me as a young student, & they’ve served me well to this day.

I learned at PSU under DJ’s stewardship, to love & honor art & music, first & foremost.   I’ve often thought it was the kindest thing he ever did for me. It’s certainly not in & of itself made me happy at all times about my profession, or myself, but I think because of his contribution to my life, he has made me an infinitely more thoughtful, searching & compassionate human-being than I might have otherwise been without his extraordinarily honest & positive influence.

I met my beautiful wife & the great Soprano Michelle McFadden, at PSU. I met in addition to DJ, 4 of the best friends my life will ever know: Ralph Wells (Valedictorian at PSU & who had a truly remarkable life in music before his untimely death in ’08), David McDade (Conductor/Accompanist with several of America’s most prestigious opera co’s, currently Assistant Cond at Seattle Opera), Patricia Blankenship (now Patricia Mortier, very distinguished Mezzo & voice teacher), Steve Mortier (also a distinguished Baritone & Voice teacher). In addition, I’ve cherished memories of many of my PSU friends & colleagues who have also gone on to important careers & dedicated lives in, or that include, music: Amy Norman, Lisa Actor, Charlotte Pistor, Mikkel Iverson, Alex Lingus, Richard Weidlich, Colleen Foltz, Karl Blum, Mark Kimes, etc, the list could go on quite a ways, as I went to school with ALOT of very gifted people, & I’m proud of ALL of them…

Many of those PSU alumni would admit that David Jimerson was a major part of their development during their scholastic & early professional years, not to mention the many talented singers who have followed us in all the years since. I’m sure just as many would easily & quickly admit how positive that his influence was for them as well.

The PSU Chamber Choir under the leadership of Dr. Bruce Browne was a big part of my growing-up years & my vocal & artistic awakening. The musical quality, values & experiences I shared with my colleagues there & then, were of such beauty & fun that they’ve never been equaled, let alone surpassed, in my years as an operatic soloist. I also gained important insights from my time with the PSU Opera Workshop, then under the leadership of Ruth Dobson.

Therefore, for me at least, PSU means many different indelible & important things. But still, it’s always been the great friendship I’ve been blessed to share with my mentor David Jimerson, that got it all started, gave my life direction & instilled professional values in me that I’ve never had cause to doubt. After all, he recruited me, so to a large degree PSU “means” DJ! And none of the other wonderful things mentioned above would ever have come to pass without DJ’s getting me to audition & accept a scholarship to PSU & go there to study voice, & as it turned out a whole lot more about life, with HIM. I shudder to think of how different my life would be if I’d NOT taken his advice, as well as many a well-deserved admonishment & scolding directed towards my own best interests from time to time. I had a few other offers & options back then, but I’m reasonably certain now that he guided me right & I’ still “at it.”

All I have to do to know for sure that going to PSU was the right thing for me to have done is to look at the pictures of my beautiful son & daughter, BOTH artists, I’m VERY proud to say.  So what does PSU still mean to me? A great MANY things that are indeed, Priceless.

Most especially, Professor Emeritus – INDEED – David Jimerson.

My teacher, & my dear, dear friend.


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