Jazz, Politics and Passion Define Jonathan Kuhr, Valedictorian for Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus
Commencement ceremonies for 1,700 students to be held Thursday, May 15
Office of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. - Musically, Jonathan Daniel Kuhr has accomplished a lot in his 22 years: He is the leader of an eponymous jazz quartet, he won an award from Downbeat Magazine as a pianist and, with his high school band, he's even played Ellington at Lincoln Center.
But music is just one of Kuhr's many passions. “I'm very interested in community advocacy, especially the empowerment of people to bring about change,” declares the Columbus, Ohio, native who won a prestigious fellowship for the summer that will take him to volunteer for a community group in Kanpur, India . “I'm very excited – I don't know what to expect - I'm eager and anxious at the same time,” he says of his next project.
A double major in music-jazz studies and political science, with an English minor and a 3.94 grade point average, Kuhr has been named valedictorian of his graduating class at Long Island University 's Brooklyn Campus. On Thursday, May 15, he will address more than 1,700 classmates at the Campus's Commencement exercises.
Kuhr, who is an editor for the student newspaper, Seawanhaka, and has been an on-air disc jockey for the Campus radio station, will share the podium with another journalist, Tavis Smiley, who is the Commencement speaker.
Summing up Kuhr's success as an undergraduate, Assistant Provost Gladys Palma de Schrynemakers, chair of the valedictorian selection committee, says, “Jonathan has embraced everything that an undergraduate education could afford him, learning fully both inside and outside the classroom.”
Agrees music department chair Robert Aquino, “Jonathan's an excellent student, producing first-rate work. And he's a seeker of knowledge with interests that are varied. I admire that.”
A member of the University Honors Program, Kuhr says of his educational choices, “I chose to go to a liberal arts school instead of a conservatory because I wanted to do something else besides music.”
His internship to India is funded by the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, which already provided Kuhr the opportunity to spend a summer as an intern at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City and another at the Pratt Center for Community Development, researching the non-profit real estate market.
Kuhr also won a fellowship from the Center for the Study of the Presidency in Washington, D.C. He's a member of several honor societies, including Alpha Lambda Delta (freshman honor society), Alpha Chi, Pi Sigma Alpha (political science) and Sigma Tau Delta (English) and is active in the Student Government Association and in the Future as Men club, mentoring youth. He admits, “I'm very busy – I like it that way.”
Kuhr began playing piano at the tender age of four and is an avid lover of jazz. “Jazz is all about self-expression through improvisation, about expressing your own sound and your own feelings,” he says.
Raised in Florida , where his family moved when he was 9, Kuhr attended the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. There he joined the school's jazz band, which provided the opportunity to perform in Europe and in the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center in his senior year. He won an outstanding solo performance award from Downbeat Magazine for a self-made recording in 2004.
After his summer in India , Kuhr plans to continue performing with his jazz ensemble and, as if that's not enough, also with a rock band, while aiming to work in urban affairs as well. “I like to keep things open,” he says.
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