Jacob Hiser concert

By Bernie Zelitch

I'm looking forward to hearing a friend, Jacob Hiser, play two piano concerto movements with the Lowell, MA, Philharmonic Orchestra this Sunday,

Jacob HiserHe didn't mention his performance two months ago during catch up over coffee in Lowell.

Instead, we caught up with his busy summer: an Australian tour as accompanist for the Boston Children's Choir and three weeks with his jazz heroes at the Banff, Canada, Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. On his commute to work from Arlington, he was studying Cuban contradanza music.

It was only when Jacob got up to teach his improvisation class at the state university down the street that I asked if there were performances coming up.

"Well, I'm playing Brahms first and Gershwin piano concertos Nov. 10," he said quickly. "Just the third, fast movements from each. I'll have to start practicing."

His sight-reading skills are known in Boston, where he's called the "Emergency Pianist." He's also a  violinist, singer, composer, arranger and teacher.

He never took a singing lesson, but taught himself to be a good enough tenor to sing in professional choirs. As he paid his way through school as an accompanist at singing lessons, he took mental notes on technique and applied it to his own singing.

I met Jacob in April. His The Scattered Congregation and my Light Years to Storrow Drive premiered at a Carduus Choir concert in Boston. He also performed. We talked afterwards at a Newbury St. bar. I told him how I admired his work's pacing and patience. I asked him who his favorite composers were.

"Brahms and Beatles," he said. That would have been my answer as well. I paused, not expecting the Beatles from somebody 40 years younger than me.

Holly Druckman, who directed that concert, remembers meeting Jacob a few years earlier when they were students at New England Conservatory. "He was the first to raise his hand when I said I wanted to start a choral group," she said. "He has worked hard and taken it seriously from the beginning. He's one of the best all around musicians I know."

Bernie Zelitch is a choral composer and lyricist living in the Boston area. website email

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