Jason Eckardt, renowned as a champion of new music, credits hearing the music of Anton Webern for his conversion from a heavy metal guitarist to a composer. While at Berklee, he changed his major from guitar performance to composition, graduating cum laude in 1992. He later received a doctorate in composition from Columbia University.
Eckardt's career, with commissions from Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Guggenheim Museum, and Columbia University, among others, has been enriched by an intellectual interest in music’s place in the world and the physical and psychological dimensions of performance. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004, and he also has had fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the MacDowell Colony, and the Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music.
Born in 1971 in Princeton, New Jersey, Eckardt concentrates on atonal and microtonal harmony and intricate rhythms. He is the cofounder of Ensemble 21, a new music performance group in New York City. Some of his major works include “After Serra” for chamber ensemble; “Reul na Coille” for percussion and orchestra; shorter works for guitar, voice, and other instruments; and many more compositions.
In addition to composing, Eckardt has written extensively on psychology and its relationship to composition, and has taught composition, theory, and musicology at Columbia, Oberlin Conservatory, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University. He now teaches at City University of New York’s Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College and Graduate Center.
Eckardt credits Berklee’s focus on the music industry with helping him to launch his composing career. “Because Berklee is attuned to the music industry in ways that a conservatory is not, I was able to make many professional advances more quickly than my counterparts. The practical, think-on-your-feet ethic of the Berklee education has served me well,” he says.