A Gustavus Grad Finds an Unexpected Career PathMoriah Jensen '23 now plans to write music while she's also teaching it.
Posted on June 30th, 2023 by

Moriah Jensen '23 will start a student-teaching position in music education later this year.

Within a few weeks of her graduation from Gustavus in May, Moriah Jensen ’23 added another accomplishment to her resume: published composer. 

Jensen’s original piece for wind ensemble, “hope is not a language the dark voices understand,” was accepted for publication by Murphy Music Press shortly after Dr. James Patrick Miller, one of Jensen’s professors, sent it to a friend at Murphy. “About two days after graduation, I got a text from [JPM] basically saying, ‘I sent your piece to a friend of mine, who’s a music publisher, without asking you. I’m sorry, but I didn’t want you to say no,’” Jensen recalled. “I don’t know what I would have said if he had asked, to be honest, so it’s a good thing that he didn’t ask me. I didn’t even major in composing, so this all feels very surreal.”

The composition’s journey began during Jensen’s junior year at Gustavus, when she wrote it for a class project. The Music Education major plays oboe, saxophone, and trumpet, among other instruments, and knew she wanted to focus on a piece for a wind orchestra. While seeking ideas for the assignment she came across a quote from Christian musician and author Andrew Peterson. “I had this idea of wanting it to be a look at dark and light, because that juxtaposition always has fascinated me. I started googling quotes that have to do with hope, just to get some more inspiration, and one popped up by Peterson, who’s one of my favorite singer-songwriters, in a foreword he wrote for a book by one of his friends,” Jensen said. “He says, ‘the Gospel gives me hope, and hope is not a language the dark voices understand.’ He was talking about how he wants his art to direct people to God. That really resonated with me, and I thought about how hope doesn’t just apply to people of faith; it applies to everyone, and I wanted to write something that resonated whether or not the listeners are people of faith, to stress the knowledge that light always comes in the morning and the night doesn’t last forever. Once I had that idea, [the writing] happened really organically.” 

As her time at Gustavus neared its end, Jensen got the opportunity to conduct the Gustavus Wind Orchestra as a senior soloist and do a rendition of her piece, which became a highlight of the Commencement Weekend festivities in Christ Chapel. “I wasn’t ever planning to perform it, so getting to conduct it was mind-blowing in and of itself,” she said. The newly minted Gustie alum will begin a student-teaching position in the Twin Cities area this fall as she looks for full-time teaching opportunities in music education while she continues to write original compositions; in addition to thanking JPM, she also cited Dave Stamps as having encouraged her to build a side gig around composition. “I’m very grateful to have professors who believed in me and the piece enough to get me connected with that publisher,” said Jensen, who’s already submitted another piece for woodwind sextet to her publisher and has others in the works.

As she moves into the professional ranks, Jensen’s creations are the culmination of a productive college career and the promising inception of her future life in music and teaching. “Because of my time at Gustavus on the music side and the education side, I feel very prepared to go out and do my thing,” she said. “Both departments have really supported me and helped me grow into who I am today as a teacher and musician,” which might not have happened but for a serendipitous meeting with JPM during a band event while she was in high school. “I almost didn’t go to Gustavus, but I’m so glad I did, because I can’t imagine being as supported, or having the knowledge I do now, at any other school,” Jensen said. “It’s a unique experience, but one that has helped us [Jensen and her peers] all become adaptable and flexible and help us know exactly what we want to do and how we want to impact the world. Now I just want to go out and impact the world for the better.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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