Grad seeks future on Broadway
Ask Jacob Yandura what he hopes you'll take away from his music and he pats his heart. That's where his compositions come from, and that's where he wants them to touch you.
The 22-year-old graduated from Kenyon College last month and headed to New York City to follow his aspiration: to be a Broadway musical composer. It's no pipe dream.
"I knew what I wanted to do from the time I was little," said Yandura, a 2005 Dublin Coffman High School graduate. "My mom said even when she was carrying me I would always kick when we were at church and the
organ was playing."
He started piano at 7 and by fourth grade was writing songs he composed in his head. When he was 12, his family moved to Dublin from Warren in northeastern Ohio, in part so Yandura could have greater artistic
opportunities. "I was the different kid," he said as he reflected on his journey. "I wasn't out throwing the football. I was the seventh-grader listening to Sweeney Todd and cooking pasta with my mom on Sundays while
she played Carole King's Tapestry album."
His life changed Sept. 11, 2001. After watching the tragedy unfold on television, he threw his emotions into his music and wrote American Requiem 9/11/01 as a tribute to those who died. The piece, for violins,
percussion, piano and voice, threw him into the spotlight at the age of 15. It was performed at ceremonies and made national news.
Soon, he was writing for local theater groups and spending summers at university camps for budding composers. He decided to attend Kenyon as a music major on the advice of a Broadway composer, who told him
to get a liberal-arts education before narrowing his focus to composing. "He has one passion and he totally gives everything to it," said dance major Olivia Cerf, 22, who's known Yandura since they came to Kenyon as
freshmen in 2005.
Yet Cerf has seen his goofy side. When they worked at the college deli, Yandura would "do this whole mop-dancing thing" as they were cleaning up at night. And he's likely to break into song at any time and any
place. "He has a special quality to be able to touch people and make them feel that they matter," said his mother, Karen O'Brien.
For a senior project, Yandura wrote the music for a two-act musical, Morning's Song, performed in April. Yandura hopes to flesh out the musical with a collaborator in New York. "I want to create something that's not
just entertainment, but provokes people to recognize their own life experiences," he said. "After the show, it was humbling and inspiring because my e-mail box was just full of people telling me their life stories."
Yandura's next stop is New York University, where he's enrolled in the two-year Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program at Tisch School of the Arts. After that, he says, it's Broadway. "Give me five years," he said.
"I don't want to jinx myself, but I've learned to trust my gut and go for it."