Jonathan L. Chenette

Interim President and Professor of Music

Jonathan L. Chenette is serving as Interim President of Vassar College from August 15, 2016 through June 30, 2017 while the college hires a successor to Catharine Hill. Chenette will then return to his position as Dean of the Faculty, which he began in July 2008.

Prior to Vassar Chenette was Associate Dean at Grinnell College, where he also held an endowed music professorship.

President Chenette holds a PhD in music composition and a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago, as well as a master's degree in music composition from Butler University. His works often focus on relationships between people and the land, particularly in the context of the prairie Midwest, where he enjoyed a 25-year career in Iowa at Grinnell College.

Broken Ground, composed in collaboration with six Iowa poets, premiered in a concert of the Des Moines Symphony broadcast statewide over Iowa Public Television as part of Iowa's sesquicentennial in 1996. Among Chenette’s other major pieces are the opera Eric Hermannson's Soul (1993), the song cycle Oh Millersville! (1990), the September 11 memorial composition Elegy and Affirmation (2002), and the orchestral works Chamber Symphony for 31 Instruments (1983), Triple Feature (1994), and Rural Symphony (2000). His compositions completed at Vassar include: an orchestral fantasy on the tune Macapay (2008) for the Latin American duo Calle Sur; Onomatopoeia (2010) for quintet of winds and strings based on a 60-foot-long scroll painting by Santa Fe artist Signe Stuart; and Four Fibs (2012) for choir, based on a poem by A.E. Stallings which whimsically narrates the story of Adam and Eve in a poetic form based on line lengths derived from the mathematical Fibonacci Series. He is currently at work on a large-scale concert band composition evoking soundscapes of the Hudson Valley.

Chenette’s musical works have involved collaborations with writers, dancers, folk musicians, farmers, visual artists, and museums, as well as performing ensembles including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, the Murasaki Duo, Red Cedar Chamber Music, Chatter, and Virelai.

In higher education Chenette has addressed national conferences on topics pertaining to inclusive pedagogy, place-based education, curricular innovation, and enhancement of teaching and learning with media technologies. His musical projects have received support through grants or fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Iowa Arts Council, the American Music Center, the American Composers Forum, and Meet the Composer. His compositions are available on CDs from the Boosey & Hawkes, Capstone, Fleur de Son Classics, Innova, and Riverrun labels and in publications from Boosey & Hawkes, Theodore Presser, and Fish Creek Music.

President Chenette is married to Jeanmarie Kern Chenette, harpist and music educator, and they have three grown children.