Biography

Thomas Jahn was born December 29, 1940 in Berlin as the only son of a publicist and a singer. Early on, he became interested in literature and music. During his schooling in Hamburg, he took trombone lessons, started a student band and followed the American jazz scene with growing interest.
                                                    
In 1962 Jahn began studies in compositions at the West Berlin Academy of Music with Prof. Heinz Friedrich Hartig, counterpoint (Ernst Pepping), instrumentation (Frank Michael Beyer), twelve-tone analysis (Josef Rufer) and later, music theory (Werner Krützfeld) in Hamburg. Two years later, he began trombone studies with Fritz Ramin at the State Conservatory which he completed with Horst Raasch at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Hamburg. In 1967 he became an assistant to his trombone teacher and later instructor for trombone and practical school music training. Parallel to this, he performed as trombonist in various Hamburg orchestras and studios. From 1969 to 1972, he studied conducting with Alfred Bittner.

In 1968, together with Wolfgang Florey, Jens Peter Ostendorf, Beate Gabriela Schmitt, and others, he founded the group “Hinz und Kunzt” (later “Ensemble Hinz&Kunst”), which was dedicated to free improvisation first. Later they decided to maintain control of the production and reproduction of music. Here is where Thomas Jahn found the ideal working environment in which to combine composition and trombone playing. With this ensemble, several cooperative compositions were created for the theater. For its musical fairy tale “Mongomo in Lapislazuli”, in 1979 the ensemble received the jury prize of the International Composition Seminar in Boswil (Switzerland).

In 1969, he spent a working period in Los Angeles with Anita Kerr and learned the technique of pop music arranging.

In 1973, under the artistic direction of Hans Werner Henze, he led the “Ensemble Hinz&Kunst” in the scenic cantata “Streik bei Mannesmann” at the “10th World Festival of Youth and Students” in Berlin (GDR).

For its recording of the cantata, the ensemble received the “Artist of the Year” Record Prize from the German Phonoakademie in 1976. A long-term collaboration with Henze followed, during which he enthusiastically promoted Jahn as his protégé. Hence, in 1975, Henze commissioned the composer to write an opera for the 1st festival of his “Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte” in Montepulciano, Tuscany. “Il Palazzo Zoologico” (directed by Volker Schloendorff and Matthieu Carriere) was premiered the following year. More commissions followed, including the ballet conceived with choreographer William Forsythe “Peccato che sia una sgualdrina” (“Too bad that she’s a whore”) and “Gänge – ein Stück über Ballett” (“Courses – a Piece about Ballet”).

From 1973 to 1974, Jahn was musical director at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg. In 1979, he received the Bach Prize Advancement Award from the city of Hamburg. In the same year, he became an editor at Peer Music Publishing House in Hamburg. In 1986 he left the publishing house in order to live as a freelance composer. During this period, he collaborated intensively with the “Ensemble L´art pour l´art".

In 1990, together with others, Jahn founded the theater “Scala” where he presented his work “Tender Buttons – A Poetic Music Theater”. Just three years later, he founded “The Eppendorfer Brass” for which he composed and arranged works. For his composition “Magnificat ‘95”, he was awarded the Church Music Prize of the City Neuss in 1995 and for the choral satire “Blühende Landschaften” (“Green Pastures”), the prize of the German Music Council in 1998.

Today Thomas Jahn lives in Hamburg and Wendland.


For a more in depth look at Thomas Jahn’s musical works you may consult his website.

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