November 2006 College Student of the Month: Jake Runestad

“Jake is just a treat to work with. He has a genuine interest in his education to learn as much as he can about music and teaching.”
– Dr. James S. Hoch, Professor of Music

College: Winona State University
Year: Junior
Major: Music Education
Hometown: Rockford, IL
Age: 20

For a twenty-year-old musician, still in the midst of his college career, it’s hard to decide what would be the most awe-inspiring: playing in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Honor Band? Conducting a university-level band? That entire band playing music you wrote? For Jake Runestad, a junior at Winona State University, all these events are in the running, but one seems to clearly top the charts—that’s his recently awarded title of Minnesota Collegiate Composer of the Year.

“It is very exciting for me as a composer to know that my pieces are being heard, and especially, enjoyed by those who truly appreciate and understand quality music.”

With a family history rich with musical talent, Jake’s been immersed in music from the beginning. His parents, Paul and Mary Runestad, are accomplished singers and have taken him to choir rehearsals and musical events for years. Jake’s extended family carry on the tradition as well. His grandfather was a singer, his uncle is a choir director, his great uncle, a band director, and as Jake says, ‘the list goes on.”

“Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. There was always music in some form happening in my home.”

When asked to describe Jake, Winona’s professor of music, Dr. James S. Hoch, has quite the list: mature, articulate, good sense of direction, well motivated, personable, respectful, takes initiative… a model student.

“I wish we had a whole department like him,” Dr. Hoch says.

That list of impressive characteristics is a bit like Jake’s own personal resume, which is so long that it’s most digestible as a list:

Symphonic Wind Ensemble (first alto sax)
Concert Choir (member and vice president)
Saxophone Quartet (soprano sax)
Dixie Midnight Runners (Dixieland Jazz Combo)
Hear & Now (pop a capella group)
ACDA Laboratory Chorus (conductor)
Vice President of Music Educators National Conference
Vice President of American Choral Directors Association
Minnesota Intercollegiate Honor Band
CBDNA North Central Division Intercollegiate Honor Band

These types of endeavors lead Jake to his most recent success: the title of Minnesota Collegiate Composer of the Year.

Jake thought entering the competition was ‘worth a shot’. On a whim, he submitted four original music scores (granted, that ‘whim’ involved original sheet music and then recordings of each piece—three by Jake’s peers from the WSU music department and a song performed by the Winona Senior High School Honors Band).

Through the mail—and an eventual phone call from his parents—Jakes was notified of his three first place honors and one second place, each awarded by the Minnesota Music Educators Association. That ‘shot’ was clearly a slam-dunk.

“I was extremely excited and felt very blessed that people actually enjoyed my music.”

The four pieces Jake submitted were “Journeys,” an instrumental ensemble for wind band; “Danse Avec Moi,” an instrumental small/chamber ensemble for a string quartet; “Nyon Nyon,” a small/chamber vocal ensemble; and a choral piece called “Come Let us Bow Down.”

Winona’s Dr. Hoch has been there along the way, watching Jake’s progress and even his directing of the Winona students.

“He is respectful. He knows what he wants and has a mature and intelligent way of working with his peers.”

After graduation, Jake plans on teaching high school band for a few years and then going back to school for his masters in composition. He’ll also continue to provide music and leadership for some youth camps and mission trips back in his hometown of Rockford, IL.

“As always, I will continue to compose and learn all that I can to become a better musician and teacher.”

Down the road Jake would also like to get his doctorate in conducting and teach at the college level. Dr. Hoch thinks this is a definite possibility.

“He will do excellent as a music educator at any level.”

Citing such mentors as his parents, his high school band director (who gave Jake the first opportunity of hearing other people perform his compositions) and Donald Fraser (a composer and associate director of worship arts that’s guided Jake and given advice), Jake says they’re just a few of the people that have helped him along his ‘musical journey.’

“I really appreciate all the people who have helped me develop my passion. I hope that someday I can give back all that they have given to me.”

In the meantime, they can sit back and listen to the music Jake has already provided.