“By reharmonizing the theme and turning it into jazz, he expresses his Korean-American identity, making a passionate statement full of both longing and hope.” — Scott Yanow, Jazz Journalist/Historian
Dr. Jordan VanHemert is a Michigan-based saxophonist and composer lauded for his skill as a modern jazz improviser. VanHemert’s music—including his new album I AM NOT A VIRUS—is deeply informed by his political consciousness, employing his distinctive compositional voice to address issues of race and social justice.
VanHemert’s works speak directly and intentionally to modern listeners, daring to touch on controversial themes like the Black Lives Matter protests and the Coronavirus pandemic. Critics recognize VanHemert’s music as being profoundly relevant; noted jazz journalist and historian Scott Yanow recently praised VanHemert’s debut release as “quite impressive,” stating that his piece “Autumn Song” “could eventually become a standard.”
VanHemert proudly asserts his Korean-American identity through his music, sometimes reharmonizing traditional Korean melodies into a contemporary jazz idiom. As the world grapples with racism and xenophobia—embodied by the unjust hostility toward Asian-Americans in the midst of a global pandemic—VanHemert fights back with the unflinching musical retort, I am not a virus.
VanHemert serves on the faculty at Hope College as Assistant Professor of Music Instruction in saxophone and jazz studies. He is also the Music Director of the Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to jazz advocacy, education, and performance. As an active composer, VanHemert has fulfilled commissions for ensembles across the country, including works for the Zenith Saxophone Quartet, Friends University Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the Bradley University Jazz Ensemble, Greenhill (TX) School Flute Choir, and many others. He holds degrees from Central Michigan University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
VanHemert is a Vandoren Artist-Clinician and Selmer Paris Saxophones Performing Artist. He performs exclusively on Vandoren reeds and mouthpieces and Selmer Paris saxophones.