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An education abroad helped liberal arts graduates pursue their love of classical music and music

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University Park, Pennsylvania — Alumni Jay Johnson’s latest folk-rock indie album Four Quartet touches on travel, philosophy, love and the natural world. Liberal Arts at Pennsylvania State University.

A class of 2013, Johnson majored in German and Global and International Studies, with minors in History and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and was born in East Hall, an environment familiar to many Penn State freshmen. I started my career. It was there that he met his randomly assigned roommate, Ryan.

The two hit it off, and soon their dorm room became a common hangout for students at Pinchot Hall to mingle. Matt Potako, a current 2013 Earth Sciences graduate, stopped by one day to take a quick peek at the room.

“Matt poked his head in and looked at some instruments and said, ‘Oh, we should jam,'” Johnson said.

Since then, Johnson and Potako have been close friends. The two were musically in sync, and after their first year, they started a band called the Pool Boys and recorded music at a Pennsylvania State Housing Cooperative called House Saurus, where Potako lived.

Potako joined the Audio Engineering Society, where he learned about analog recording, and helped the band record music on 4-track analog machines and 4-track open-reel. The Pool Boys were an experimental band inspired by the music and classic rock of the 1960s, then State He played small venues and house shows in college, and now play in Philadelphia. increase.

Johnson’s years at Penn State University played an important role in his music today as a solo artist. His album “Four Quartets” showcases various elements and nods to classical history, culture and poetry consistent with his studies as an undergraduate at Penn State University.

A year later, in the summer, Johnson took a faculty-led trip to Rome. Fascinated by his cultural experience and supported by Mary Lou Mann, Emeritus Associate Professor of Classical and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Johnson decided to spend his second year in Athens, Greece, for a semester.

The trip allowed Johnson to explore and experience Greek history, culture and archeology, and gain first-hand experience performing music for others at venues other than State College. . In Greece, Johnson performed solo music in small local restaurants called ‘Taverna’. He said playing folk music was “part of Greek culture”.

During this trip to Greece, Johnson came across a bouzouki. The bouzouki is a popular Greek stringed instrument used in local folk songs. He immediately fell in love with the instrument and learned how to play it, and he promised that when he returned to Greece he would buy the instrument for himself.

As fate would have it, Johnson returned to Greece in the summer of his third year to participate in archaeological excavations, where he received a scholarship for his work. Johnson saved his four weeks’ salary, fulfilled his promise to himself, and bought a bouzouki. The bouzouki and all of his 21 additional instruments that Johnson knows how to play are featured on his album Four Quartets.

“I always complemented my education by delving into the culture and music of the different places I visited,” Johnson said. “Without that, I don’t think we would have had this kind of cultural understanding.”

Johnson also said that a philosophy of religion class he took in fourth grade was particularly stimulating. In his class, Johnson read the writings of philosophers such as John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, questioning stoicism and similar topics. “Walking,” read by Emerson, was particularly thought-provoking for Johnson. The theme of spirituality in the natural world heavily influenced some of the songs on his album, especially his song “Through the Storm”. Johnson sought to mimic this balance between abstraction and deeper meaning when writing the album.

“I try to use abstract language and really appreciate weighted language of poetry and philosophy that ideally makes most of it as open as possible. I really appreciate the different interpretations of the lyrics,” Johnson said.

“Four Quartets” is streaming on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube. Johnson’s other musical involvements include country, his western-themed rock, his band, Mandy, where he played bass in Valentine, and indie, his band Three, where he yards, where he’s at his Dover. Including playing the guitar.