Jonathan Pasternack

Music is a powerful force in the world. It expresses what words cannot. When words fail—you still have music.

Jonathan Pasternack, conductor/music/director/ executive director for the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra and guest trombonist and percussionist for the Sequim City Band.

Jonathan Pasternack embodies music as a positive force for the village.

“I embrace the world community—like-minded people coming together to do what they love, making music. It’s a fundamental act of communion, exchanging feelings and ideas. We love what we’re doing. It is magical,” he says.

Jonathan grew up in a household in Brooklyn, New York, that instilled the importance of music and the magic of performing arts in general. His parents were musicians, actors, and educators. He left high school at 16 to attend the Manhattan School of Music. But he didn’t find the paradise he’d hoped for. It was, he says, too narrowly focused. His humanities professors at music school inspired him to pursue a wider range of intellectual interests. He transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in political science and had his first conducting experiences with the MIT Concert Band.

During his tenure at the University of Washington, one of four academic appointments, he started the High School Symphonic Invitation Program.

In 2015 he became a part of the North Olympic Peninsula community when he was hired as the Port Angeles Symphony conductor and music director and became an often-recruited member of the Sequim City Band, sitting in to play percussion and trombone.

Jonathan, who has an extensive career conducting symphony orchestras, has a soft spot for concert bands, which have a specific kind of repertoire. His first experience playing with a large ensemble outside of public-school groups was with the Italian Community Band in his hometown of Brooklyn.  

“It was formative,” he said, “It was the first time I was part of something where people came together for the sheer joy of making music. As an orchestral instrumentalist, I thrive in the environment of large musical ensembles.”

A musical ensemble can help bind a community together, he believes. It brings together the family and friends of those who are part of the ensemble. It creates a mutually beneficial relationship with a variety of businesses and organizations, and it gives young people who have reached a certain level of proficiency to play with other musicians, and in front of an audience.

“I think musicians feel a heightened version of what they feel as Individual players when they perform together in an ensemble, like in a rehearsal. Then, when you play in front of an audience, you experience a palpable feeling of electricity in the room as the music reaches out to those listeners sitting in rapt attention.”

Jonathan enjoys playing with the Sequim City Band. It reminds him of the community band in Brooklyn that years ago awakened in him the place where he most thrives—a large musical ensemble.

Jonathan admires his fellow community players and thinks Tyler Benedict is extremely talented both as a performing instrumentalist on tuba and as the Band’s conductor and musical director.

Rehearsal space helps a community band flourish. The time spent in the rehearsal room brings a high level of enjoyment to community musical ensembles such as the Sequim City Band, Jonathan says. The physical space can help expand psychological space and comfort to the experience of making music, which transforms again when the audience hears the music.

The Band has a terrific opportunity to design and expand Swisher Hall, its current rehearsal space, he thinks.

“Not being able to get together with colleagues during this pandemic has been an almost violent silencing of a fundamental part of our self-identities as musicians,” Jonathan said. “It’s like we were sent to our rooms for a time out. If ever I’ve done so in the past, I’ll never take musical performances for granted again! I look forward to the time when we can gather together again without fearing for the safety and health of others—to a time when we can once again find the communion in being part of music performed and music heard.”

That time is coming soon. The Port Angeles Symphony is open for business on October 1st and 2nd for its Pops Concert. It will be a celebration of music for the entire family. And don’t forget to look for him in his occasional appearances with the Sequim City Band. To learn more about Jonathan, visit  his website: