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Graduate explores intersection of sustainability, music on path to dream job

black and white portrait of ASU grad Jonathan Gregoire in a tuxedo
December 11, 2014

Jonathan Gregoire is going places.

At the end of this semester, Gregoire will have earned a doctor of musical arts in music (organ performance) from the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. But the talented musician has already landed a job as the associate director of music and principal organist at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.

In a sense, things have come full circle for Gregoire, who says he was first drawn to the organ as a child at church. That youthful fascination with the instrument grew into a lifelong study, which brought Gregoire to Arizona State University to work with Goldman Professor of Organ Kimberly Marshall for his graduate degree.

During his time here, Gregoire says he has had a number of unique opportunities, including performances in Germany and the Netherlands. But some of his most interesting work has been, unexpectedly, in the realm of sustainability.

After taking a class on music and nature with professor Sabine Feisst, Gregoire became interested in the intersection of sustainability and the organ. Subsequently, he began working on a dissertation exploring sustainable practices in organ building.

Gregoire explains that organ pipes often contain lead, a hazardous material, but that little has been done to move away from this model of manufacturing. In his dissertation, Gregoire surveyed current practices in organ construction, while looking at sustainable material alternatives that would not result in a deterioration of sound quality.

In some ways, he says, organ builders have already been using sustainable practices for years in terms of salvaging and reusing materials. “When it comes to organs, there is such a great respect for history and tradition,” says Gregoire.

In his new position at St. Andrew, Gregoire will bring this history and tradition to bear as a performer and musical director.

Gregoire says the School of Music, and Marshall in particular, helped prepare him professionally to navigate the musical workforce. He feels better prepared to connect with musicians and non-musicians alike, which is a huge asset for his long-term goal: to be the dean of a music school.

By all accounts, the ASU School of Music has set him off on the right path to one day fulfill this dream.