Arthur Hatton is a connoisseur of music and the founder of Linescratchers, a site that highlights LDS musicians who play music other than LDS-themed music. We’re pleased to have him as our guest for a special series of posts.
Last time, we traveled the world musically through the New Age music of Oscar Aguayo, better known by his songwriting alias Australis. This time, we’ll continue with our theme of instrumental music, but move to the classical side with Jennifer Thomas.
But before I move on to Jennifer’s music, I’d like to say a couple things about Linescratchers. By this time in our list you might have asked to yourself, “Why hasn’t he featured ____?” There might be several reasons, but the main reason is, we can only feature what we know. All the musicians at Linescratchers have been discovered through word of mouth, random Internet searches, other websites, but for all intents and purposes, we’re the only website that does what we do. Consequently, we had to build our database from scratch. If you know of any other musicians who might wish to be featured on Linescratchers, either tell them to contact us directly, or send me a link to their music. They must pass a “subjective threshold of excellence” so we can preserve our reputation, but we’re really nice and flexible.
And one more thing. If musicians are your thing, and you love blogging, writing, reviewing, interviewing, or listening to music and you think you might want to blog for Linescratchers, just send me an email. We’re always looking for new bloggers who are willing to provide quality content and references. Think about it!
I can be reached at linescratchers(AT)gmail(dot)com.
When I wrote about Jennifer Thomas at Linescratchers, I described her music as “classical music that kicks.” That’s because her songs, though featuring violins, cellos, and pianos amongst other things, can rock mightily, and would feel just as comfortable in a CD player as they would in a movie soundtrack. She has composed music for short films and an album full of lullabies for mothers and babies. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Jennifer began taking violin lessons in Washington state at the age of 5, having already displayed a talent and ear for music, and later that year began playing the piano. She and her brother would both practice music at 6 am every morning for an hour, trading off the piano. By the time she was in 2nd grade, she was playing violin in the 6th grade orchestra, and when she was finally a teenager she transitioned to piano as a primary instrument.
She then graduated and studied music at BYU-Idaho, playing violin for the orchestra there, and still practicing piano 8 hours a day, building up skill and precision. After graduating, she taught lessons and then moved to Utah where she played piano for the Salt Lake City Temple Square Concert Series for three years. Eventually, she and her husband moved to Seattle where she worked for the Seattle Symphony.
Could you believe that someone as accomplished and experienced as Jennifer could develop a mean case of stage fright? During college, Jennifer began getting painful pre-show jitters from self-doubt that seemed almost debilitating. In fact, this condition is more common than you’d think, as many musicians are introverts who have a difficult time performing in front of other people. I am reminded of Steve Vai, one of the best guitar players who has ever lived, who often threw up before performing in the early days of his career. Jennifer was able to overcome this condition and has spent a career in performance despite it.
Jennifer Thomas is an accomplished performer, but her inclusion in this list stems from her compositions. She began writing passionate, dynamic instrumental music in 2003, and never looked back. Her mother, Carolyn Southworth, recorded an album in 2005, and it so inspired Jennifer that she followed with her own album, The Key of Sea. The critically-acclaimed album did remarkably well and Jennifer found herself suddenly selling CDs, signing autographs in the mail, and having her music featured on NBC.
The Key of Sea is a dramatic album full of intense instrumental tunes. It is inspired by the ocean, nature, and Jennifer’s interesting blend of influences. It’s just about as heavy as instrumental classical and soundtrack music can get, which is why I like it so much. The heavier, the better, if you ask me. I listen to Sleep, for crying out loud (the doom metal band).
“I grew up in the Pacific Northwest – always near the ocean. If we weren’t living in a beach house, we were living only a few miles from the beach. Summers as a kid were spent combing the beach for shells and crabs while the tide was out, digging for clams and other crawly creatures, swimming, and boating.
I have so many great memories of the ocean, so it was definitely on my mind a lot as I wrote the songs for Key of Sea, as well as came up with the album concepts for photography, etc. Two of the songs on the album specifically have to do with the ocean – ‘A Beautiful Storm’, and ‘The Tempest’.” – Jennifer Thomas, interview with Linescratchers
Jennifer followed up that album with a second album of lullabies, written and recorded with her mother. It is simply called The Lullaby Album, and provides a gentle contrast to her powerful instrumental songs from The Key of Sea. She recruited an all-star cast to perform on The Lullaby Album, and the reception has been quite positive. As you might have guessed, the album was inspired simply by Jennifer’s attempts to help her son sleep when he was a baby.
“The Lullaby Album was an idea that came about shortly after I had my first baby in 2008. My son was not a very good sleeper, and I found myself making up songs on the piano to lull him to sleep on many occasions. They were very simple melodies; absolutely anyone who could play the piano could certainly play these songs I was coming up with. But I found that it was really one of the only types of music babies could tolerate – one lined melodies, rhythmic, and gentle. (No wonder lullabies are of the nature that they are right?)
After seeing how my songs were helping my little one get to sleep, the idea came to me to create an album full of lullabies. I asked my Mom to join me on the project – as I thought that would be very fitting as she once lulled me to sleep with lullabies when I was a baby as well. And it really was a beautiful mother-daughter experience.
While it was originally intended to be a very small-scaled Internet-release-only project, it actually ended up being a full-fledged hard print 2-disc album. So there was a lot of time and hard work that went into it – but I think the end result turned out perfect. Well actually way more perfect than I even intended it to.” – Jennifer Thomas, interview with Linescratchers
However, despite all of Jennifer’s accomplishments, she still has a deep sense of humility and gratitude for her gift. She has said repeatedly on her website that she believes that music, and the gift for performance and composition, come directly from God.
“Honestly there are days when I think to myself that I have no talent in composition and I must have everyone fooled. The only possible way I can write my music is with the help of my Father in Heaven. Even when I feel that I have hit my “writing cap” and couldn’t possibly write anything better, He usually gives me some kind of wake up call to let me know that there is more inside of me. I am constantly also always praying for help and guidance when it comes to my music.” – Jennifer Thomas, interview with Linescratchers
Jennifer is spending this Summer composing music for a short film by Ryan McNeal called “Minuet,” and she has been blogging about the process to compose and record it. It has been an interesting read to say the least. In addition to composition (and being a full-time mother), Jennifer is a private music instructor with 12 students, teaching both piano and violin. She has an incredible gift, and I am excited to see what she does with it.