Choral director says ‘farewell’
Once upon a time, Portland State University was known as Portland State College and it only cost $89 per term to attend.
The music department was also considerably smaller, taught entirely by adjunct faculty and did not offer an actual degree.
Now that music professor David Jimerson is retiring, he can proudly say that he was both a witness of that time and a contributor to the growth PSU’s music program has seen over the years.
Jimerson attended PSU, then PSC, focusing his major on the trumpet for two years, before switching to voice and graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in humanities with an emphasis on music in 1964, and eventually joined the faculty at his alma matter in 1983.
Jimerson first really became involved in music when he was in the sixth grade and “tended to be a troublemaker in class,” he said.
As a result, his teacher sent him to band, where he began playing baritone horn.
Eventually, Jimerson began studying the trumpet, and in eighth grade he earned enough money to cover half the cost of a trumpet while his father paid for the other half.
When he was a sophomore in high school, he began taking private lessons with the principal trumpet player for the Oregon Symphony.
Jimerson went on to play with the Oregon Symphony for about two years, although he admits he was the fifth-chair trumpet and as most pieces don’t need that many trumpets, he really only played about three concerts.
“It’s still a nice thing to be able to say,” Jimerson commented on his history with the Oregon Symphony.
When he started college as a trumpet major, he began taking voice lessons for the first time and after two years switched his major to voice because he felt he could accomplish more with the voice, as there are more expressions through the use of text.
Anyone who has studied with Jimerson privately or sung in one of the choirs he directs knows the great importance he puts on the text. He spends a decent amount of rehearsal time emphasizing diction.
When Jimerson was in high school, he decided he wanted to teach high school band. And when he graduated from college, he was qualified to teach both band and voice.
He went on to teach fourth-grade through high school students music in Scapoose, Ore., for a while before attending the University of Arizona and receiving his master’s degree in music in 1972.
After receiving his master’s, he began singing professional opera. The balance between singing professionally and maintaining a teaching career became difficult, so Jimerson stopped teaching high school.
In 1977, he became an adjunct voice teacher at PSU, which still afforded him time to continue singing professionally.
Eventually, he became a quarter-time teacher, than a half-time teacher before becoming a full-time professor in 1983.
“I was just kind of in the right time and the right place,” Jimerson said of when the offer to teach came from PSU.
Jimerson is proud that many of his students have gone on to do “pretty good things” with careers in music.
He has also been able to do many things with the music education program since he took it over in the mid-1980s.
“When I took it over, it was secure,” Jimerson said. “Now, we’re turning out more music ed majors than when I took over.”
Jimerson is excited about his retirement and admits, “my blood pressure’s lower,” although he will stay on at PSU as a part-time faculty member to teach private voice lessons.
He will also continue to teach his own voice students, many of whom are either adults or in high school, and will continue to direct the music program at Valley Community Presbyterian Church.
Jimerson’s advice to anyone who wants to listen is to “stay in touch with things spiritually,” regardless of religion.
“That’s such an enriching part of your life,” he said.
He also looks forward to watching PSU’s music program continue to grow. The choral and opera programs have received international recognition, and the jazz program is rapidly gaining momentum.
Jimerson hopes to be remembered as a professor who cared about his students and cared about helping them appreciate and love music as he does, whether or not they went on to careers in music.
Once, a graduate student came into his office for a voice lesson and commented “there’s a lot of love in this room.”
Jimerson admits that the comment can be taken many ways, but he likes to think it embodies the sort of teacher he has been.
“Students have told me, ‘You taught me a lot about life,'” he said, “‘not just music.'”