Tyler Kemp | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Tyler Kemp

Photo courtesy Mason Crowe

Photo courtesy Mason Crowe

In his career to date, Tyler Kemp has covered a lot of musical ground. From his days as the keyboardist for the indie-rock band Jonezetta in the early 2000s to his current roles as a member of the music faculty at Mississippi College and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, he has continued to push himself to grow as a musician.

“I guess, for me, I’ve always enjoyed doing all styles (of music), or being as versatile as I can be,” Kemp says. “Growing up, I learned classical piano, but then I also learned guitar and how to play by ear, and I was in bands in high school. And I’m still learning. I’m still a student. I practice every day. I’m constantly working on something new.”

Kemp started playing piano at the age of 5 or 6, when his parents decided that he and his twin brother needed an extracurricular activity. After trying gymnastics and finding that it wasn’t for him, he switched to piano lessons.

“About fifth or sixth grade, I remember my mom saying, ‘You don’t have to do this anymore, if you don’t want to,’” Kemp says, “but she must have known at that point that I enjoyed it and wanted to do it, or she wouldn’t have said it. At that point it had become my thing and not just me doing my parents’ thing.”

Kemp came to the metro area from his hometown of Louisville, Miss., to attend Mississippi College, and never left. He joined the popular Clinton-based band Jonezetta shortly after graduating from MC, touring and playing with them for a few years. “I was thankful that I did it,” Kemp says of his time with the rock band. “We traveled a lot, and I value that experience very much.”

Following his time with Jonezetta, Kemp returned to MC, where he completed a master’s degree in piano performance before joining the music faculty, where he is currently in his seventh year.

In addition to his work at MC, Kemp serves as worship leader at Bellwether Church in Jackson, hosts a weekly Jazz Night at the restaurant Dumbo’s on Duling on Wednesday evenings, alongside trumpeter Terry Miller of the Southern Komfort Brass Band, and performs with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.

Kemp and his wife, Shellie, a violinist with the MSO, are the featured performers in the MSO’s upcoming concert ‘Pops II–Music of Richter and Ffrench’ this weekend—Saturday, March 13, starting 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. The concert features contemporary works written for film, television and the stage. The married musicians recently welcomed their first child, a daughter named Zoey.

Another musical project in which Kemp is currently involved is the performance group New JXN. The ensemble of classical musicians plays classical music in non-traditional settings.

“In the classical world there’s, it’s its own genre, called New Music,” Kemp explains. “We wanted to play new music, music that’s being written now, and maybe attract a new audience to classical music that wouldn’t necessarily buy tickets to a concert or a recital. Trying to bring the music to the people, I guess you’d say.”

He goes on to say that the ensemble tries to appeal to both classical listeners and those for whom classical music may not be as familiar or comfortable, by making it more accessible.

“We’re trying to appeal to both audiences. We’re doing a ‘Music in the City’ concert, which is more for a classical audience, but then we also play at Hal & Mal’s with (local indie-rock musicians). So, we’re just really trying to find a middle ground between those two audiences,” Kemp says. “There’s a big scene of new music being written that we want to bring to Jackson.”

‘Pops II – Music of Richter and Ffrench’ takes place on Saturday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m. For more details or to purchase tickets, visit msorchestra.com. For more information on New JXN, visit newjxn.com, or search @newjxn on Facebook or Instagram.

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