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Alumni Spotlight: J.E. Hernandez

A Q&A with Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, Moores School of Music Alum, J.E. Hernandez

Q: What was the year and degree you received from The University of Houston’s College of the Arts? 

A: I graduated in May 2020 with a degree in Music specializing in music composition from the Moores School of Music.  

Q: Where has your [arts] career taken you since graduation?  

A: Since graduating, I have worked with various organizations across the city and nationwide, including the Kennedy Center, Fresh Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, the Apollo Chamber Players, Houston Contemporary Dance Company, and other opportunities for which I am ever grateful for. I have also continued to work in the non-profit and social cause sector, growing my non-profit Concertia; our mission being the empowering of social causes through the prism of new music and multi-media art.  

Q: Is there one thing that has surprised you about a career in the arts that you didn’t expect?  

A: The amount of administrative overhead and planning is simply unbelievable! I did not think that there would be so much work in simply getting work produced, especially since there is already so much work that goes into simply creating my own art. 

Q: What accomplishments in your career do you feel most proud of? 

A: I had the Brazil National Orchestra premiere my first orchestra piece in 2019, and right now I am working on a program titled Voces Fantasmas that deals with my experiences in immigrant detention. This will be featured by the Kennedy Center in its program Arts Across America, and I feel very honored and proud to be recognized in this way. 

Q: Are there specific skills or things you learned at the McGovern College of the Arts that you find valuable in your career now? What are they? 

A: My three composition teachers taught me so much, and I value everything they taught me. Marcus Maroney, as my primary & lesson instructor, gave me the skills to push my creativity forward and to question myself in a way that leads me to make better choices in my music. His knowledge is vast, inspiring, and incredible. It gives me something to aspire to every day. Rob Smith, as director of AURA Contemporary Ensemble, really gave me a keen insight into the world of contemporary music and productions. Working closely with him, seeing how he works with the ensemble taught me how to take my skills as a musician and implement them pragmatically in a rehearsal. David Ashley White gave me the encouragement professionally I needed to push myself and my work forward in the direction of my own personal narrative. I owe him a great debt in his support and his enlightening comments regarding how to navigate the world of professionals.  

Q: Has there been any press coverage that you would like to share? If so, list links in your answer with any helpful descriptions. 

A: UH article on the Moores Music in the City concert. 

Q: What is coming up for you in the future that we should watch for?  

A: My program, titled Voces Fantasmas  (Eng: Phantom Voices) is a multi-disciplinary program that consists of a 30-35 minute performance – honoring the many people I met while detained inside an ICE detention facility, who have since become no more than phantom voices in my memory. The program is made up of music, dance, and film, exploring the way in which each medium can – both together and separately – say something about the phantom voices that are now lost to the eternity of time. An excerpt of this performance will be shown by the Kennedy Center on October 13, on their website. The full debut is stipulated to occur on December 2020, in the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. 

Q: What advice would you have for incoming students who are focusing on a career in the arts? 

A: Push yourself to speak from the heart. Learn from your peers and approach your colleagues to collaborate and to get to know them and their process. Your greatest accomplishments happen when you work with others. Trust yourself and your voice will come. Your teachers are also learning from you, so talk to them, ask them about their own careers and see how they can help you.  

Quote: I built a community at the Moores School of Music that empowered me to be a greater artist. Through my experiences with my peers, the laughter, tears, good and bad times, I graduated a stronger, more inspired composer and person. No matter how hard it became or how much I battled, I will cherish my time at the Kathrine G McGovern College of the Arts, Moores School of Music forever. 


Instagram handle: @jehernandezhtx 

Voces Fantasmas: 

Excerpt from Voces Fantasmas