Conductor Derek Jacoby Returns From Fall Sabbatical to Expand Andover’s Orchestral Horizons

After a sabbatical during the Fall of 2022, Dr. Derek Jacoby is resuming his role in Andover’s music community as an instructor, conductor, and coach. According to Jacoby, this sabbatical allowed him to further explore works by a range of composers and reflect on the student experience at Andover. These pursuits both inspired him to incorporate new approaches into his present work and reminded him of what initially drew him to Andover.

“On the sabbatical, I tried to be as outwardly facing as possible. I was thinking about what this change in schedule allowed me to do… [and] what opportunities I was given by having more free time. If there were something I missed, however, it would probably be… the [orchestra] rehearsals and chamber music coaching,” said Jacoby.

Over the years, Jacoby has taught courses ranging from introductory music to advanced theory and composition, as well as conducted the Phillips Academy Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. According to Jacoby, he has been teaching since his undergraduate years and derives joy and satisfaction from working with students.

“I am often in the role of trying to make the music more of whatever it is. If it’s happy, how can we make it happier? If it’s sad, how can we make it sadder? If it’s emotional, how can we make it more emotional? I examine a piece of music and what makes it special or unique. Then, I help students find those things…and bring them out…by making intelligent choices [in] how they express the music they’re playing,” said Jacoby.

16 years ago, Jacoby initially joined Andover’s Music Department as a one-year composer-in-residence. Finding the place “impressive” and admiring the intellectual curiosity of the students, he decided to stay and has been a part of the Andover community since. In an email to The Phillipian, violinist Kei Obata ’23 described how Jacoby provided him with guidance as a new student.

Obata wrote, “When I first came to Andover, I felt a bit nervous but also excited for their music department, and Dr. Jacoby is one of the first people that greeted me with open arms and welcomed me to this incredible community that he helped create. The way he presents himself during rehearsals truly embodies the joyful and genuine nature of his character, and it feels like the entire orchestra comes together as one when he conducts.”

Marika Saito ’25, a French horn player in the Symphony Orchestra, also commented on how Jacoby’s humor always lightens the mood and engages students in both classroom and rehearsal settings.

“For me, the attribute that is most helpful for us as an orchestra is [Jacoby’s] humor. I love conductors who have skills, which he does, but I also really like conductors who bring the team together…. He tells a lot of jokes and tries to pull us along, so you can’t ever [fall asleep],” said Saito.

Jacoby is currently preparing the orchestras for upcoming performances with pieces such as “Lyric for Strings” by George Walker and “Repetitive Songs” by Jo Kondo, which he explored during his sabbatical. Looking ahead, he expressed his hopes for working to diversify Andover’s orchestral repertoire and appropriately challenge students in new ways.

“Every now and then, I hope to produce a new arrangement that allows Andover to feature a composer that otherwise might be underrepresented in the repertoire… I think it’s always a process of evaluating where [the students are] at, what seems to be working well and what needs to be focused on a little bit more. I’m just looking to put challenges in front of them that facilitate new experiences and growth on their part… [and] help design a ladder for the ensembles to climb together,” said Jacoby.