Jerry Torr to conduct at the Palladium

Writer  /  Kara Kavensky
Photographer  /  Amy Payne

State Representative Jerry Torr has served his constituents in House District 39 for more than 21 years and is Vice President of Commercial Business Development for Hamilton National Title. But it is his volunteer position as a member of the Board for the Carmel Symphony Orchestra that helps keep him grounded in his first true love — music.

Torr began playing the trumpet in the 5th or 6th grade until summer marching band practices at Greencastle High School conflicted with 4-H, so he picked up the guitar.

While reading Guitar Player Magazine, Torr learned about the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, then known as the Guitar Institute of Technology, or GIT. GIT was started by Howard Roberts, a long time “first call” guy, which meant that when a guitarist was needed in a recording studio, Roberts was the top guitarist on the list.

“You’ve heard his work a thousand times but probably weren’t aware of it,” says Torr or Roberts’ work. “The school began as a trade school for guitar players.”

Torr spent first semester of his freshman year at Hanover College and somehow during Christmas break, Torr convinced his parents to let him leave Hanover for GIT.

What followed was an intensive of guitar-focused music education. Courses included Psychology of Music, Music Theory and Composition. The Composition instructor, Mundell Lowe, taught orchestration and film scoring. Torr was hooked.

“It was clear from the beginning of that course that I was the only student engaged with the topic, so Mundell spent a lot of time with me cultivating my interest,” Torr says. “Mundell took me to a few tapings of the Merv Griffin show. Mundell wrote music for a couple of movies and a lot of television shows.”

Torr was able to witness the scoring process and took a strong interest in composing, but he came home after graduating in the first graduating class of GIT. He had a girlfriend at Purdue, was 20 years old, and went to work putting together a demo tape of 12-13 snippets, many of which feature jazz combos or full orchestras. Torr experienced little to no interest in the demo tape, but kept composing as a passion.

As a member of the search committee for the new Music Director for the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, reviewing all 130-plus applicants brought back memories of Torr’s past. Inspired by the task, Torr brought each of the committee members a copy of his old demo recording to their final meeting, never dreaming he would be asked to conduct it at the Palladium.

“I can’t remember whether I composed it while I was still in Hollywood or after I got back home to Greencastle,” Torr says. “The original score has some notes in the margins that aren’t mine and aren’t Mundell Lowe’s handwriting, so I suspect they were from Dr. Smith at DePauw, with whom I had some private study with after I got back to Indiana.”

The piece, titled “Fanfare for a New Era” composed, and will be conducted, by Torr at the first concert of the season, introducing the new Music Director, Janna Hymes, on October 14th.

“The first time you stand up and conduct an orchestra based upon notes that you have written is an amazing experience,” Torr says. “I can only imagine what they will feel like at the Palladium.”

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