Where Are They Now? Meet Alumni, Jesse Kupper

jesse performing in 2012 in west end with other jmi students

The Jazz Music Institute was founded in 1996 and has been a higher education tertiary institution since 2009.

In the following blog series of ‘Where Are They Now?’, we talk to some of our alumni who we haven’t heard from in quite some time! We find out where life has taken them since graduation, and how studying at JMI benefited them throughout their career and life.

For this particular blog, we were lucky to chat with JMI alumni Jesse Kupper who completed JMI’s Bachelor program in 2014, almost ten years ago! Read on for the full interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you play?

I work professionally as a school guidance counsellor at far western QLD schools often incorporating Music in therapy and rapport building with students. I currently play guitar with the Cool Nights Big Band, Then That! (Jazz duo), Warm for July (Quartet), sit in the house band at a fortnightly Jazz, Funk and Groove jam and I also gig instrumental solo.

What have you been doing since graduating from JMI?

Studying, playing and family life. Since graduating at JMI, I completed a Grad Dip in Secondary Education after which I taught Classroom Music (Secondary) for 5 years prior to completing a Masters in Counselling which brought me to my current role. I’ve played with the Ipswich City Big Band for 2+ years during my teaching and have been lucky enough to be studying under Mark Stefani for the last year and a half. Mark was the editor and columnist for Just Jazz Guitar magazine for 20+ years and knows all the big cats.

What has been one of your biggest musical highlights in your career thus far?

I was initially going to answer with this or that performance from a previous concert etc. But on reflection, I believe that the biggest highlight has been the connections with the community that music has provided me.

Whether this has been making like-minded long-term friends through music or playing music for the local communities out in Quilpie on my counselling visits, I believe that making the realisation that music and music performance is one of the greatest connectors has been my biggest musical highlight.

jesse performs guitar with a big smile on his face at local bar

What are your future goals in music?

Continuing to make personal achievements on the instrument, playing with new people and expanding to bigger venues. Megan Crocombe (stunning vocalist!) and I collaborate in a duo called “Then That”. We’ve recently written a good number of original tunes that we’re super excited about and a big goal of ours is to produce a recording in 2024 of our favourite originals as well as arrangements of standards.

How has studying at JMI helped you to get where you are and towards your future goals?

I cannot think of an element of what I actively do musically that hasn’t been positively impacted by what I’ve learned at JMI.

My highlights would be skills regarding improvisation, composition, performing to an audience, collaboration, critical listening, surviving the music scene and networking.

What advice would you have for someone thinking about studying music and especially jazz?

Every artist has their own opinion on how we should progress creatively. View these opinions with curiosity and not as fact, and look to the masters for confirmation that you’re on the right path as being on the right path is what matters most.

Also, language, language, language! Sticking to learning scales and arpeggios won’t make you sound like Parker. It might sound counterintuitive to say go and learn a bunch of “licks”, however, the greats could play language that has been deeply internalised for hours on end with no sweat, and stand on the shoulders of these giants!

jesse performing at a festival in 2024

Opening for the Festival of Small Halls (Solo instrumental) 2024

Any advice for current students as they complete their Bachelor?

It’s super common to feel overwhelmed during any study, some people incorrectly self-identify this as apathy/laziness.

Talk to your lecturers if you’re struggling or don’t feel like you’re progressing as you should be, the earlier you bring it up, the better!

What musicians have you been listening to lately?

Donny Benet, Gregory Porter, Ross Kessler, Vulfpeck, Vince Jones, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Frank Zappa. I love discovering new music, however, I still get a feeling of coming home listening to Blue Note from the 50s/60s.

Any music of yours we can listen to?

Facebook @ThenThat

Get in touch