COMPAS Youth Boost with Jack Sutter

Youth Boost are interviews with COMPAS' ArtsWork and ArtScope Alumni. ArtsWork and ArtScope are unique employment and arts training programs designed for youth to work alongside COMPAS artists. ArtsWork began in 2001 and ArtScope in 2012.

* Hi Jack, it's so great that COMPAS was able to reconnect with you! Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts?

 When I was in kindergarten I found a paper bag full of blank spiral-bound notebooks inside one of the cabinets. The teacher let me use as many of them as I wanted, and I went to work filling out every inch of those journals, developing a habit of doodling that still continues today. I had an ear for music early on, as well. I had piano lessons with an instructor who encouraged me to compose pieces of my own, rather than play from sheet music alone.

* What years were you in ArtsWork – what did you do?

 In 2007 and 2008 I played piano in a band, where we performed and composed a wide variety of songs. In 2009 I was part of a group that played the Indonesian gamelan, with a bit of dancing and acting as well.  

* How do you think ArtsWork made an impact on you that a “regular” job wouldn’t have?

At that age, my art was mostly a hobby. It was the career I was focusing on, and I was even going to an art college for it, but I’d never gotten too many opportunities to do anything more with it. I wasn’t able to do too many projects on my own, either, since I’ve always found it hard to work entirely on my own with no supervisor. ArtsWork gave me that vital experience in the artistic field I was aiming towards; I wouldn’t have gotten that from a different job.

 * Besides gaining artistic skills, what did you learn during your time with ArtsWork?

I learned about all of the parts that go into being a musician other than the “music” part, like putting a proper show together, working on compositions with other people, and performing in front of a crowd alone or in a small group. I also found just how different it is to play piano as the accompaniment, rather than the focus, of a song. Classical piano lessons alone didn’t teach me that. 

* Who was your mentor artist? What did you learn from them?

I worked with Soli Hughes for the band and Joko and Tri Sutrisno for the gamelan ensemble. All of them motivated me to go beyond the boundaries I’d set for myself. In the gamelan class, in particular we did acting and dancing as part of the final performance. I’m not really into either of those, so without Joko and Tri pushing me I never would’ve had those experiences on my own.

 * How did working with a mentor artist affect your choice of education and/or work?

I’m very reserved with my music composition. I’d play songs I composed at piano recitals, but outside of that I find it very hard to play my own music for anyone. Soli let me know that my music was good, that I should keep doing it. I’ve never stopped composing; ever since then I’ve kept a project of all of the little bits of inspiration I get, usually 5-30 seconds long, and it’s added up to around 5 hours now. I’ve definitely created quite a pool to draw from.

 * What are you doing now? 

ArtsWork gave me that vital experience in the artistic field I was aiming towards; I wouldn’t have gotten that from a different job.

I’m the lead animator on a project at a local Minneapolis animation studio, basically sitting in-between the director and the animators. I do mostly management while occasionally animating when it’s called for. I love critiquing other people’s work to make something good into something great, so I’m really satisfied with it. I’m not doing as much of the actual animating as I was in the years leading up to this job, but it gives me the opportunity to touch on all parts of the process; music and sound effects included.

 * Did your involvement with COMPAS play a role in that choice?

I’ve always had a wide variety of artistic interests. Music, comics, animation, and even programming are all things I’ve dabbled in. At one point in my life, however, I had to make a decision, and I decided on animation. It’s what I went to college for, and it’s what I’ve started my career on. However, even though I decided on animation, I refuse to let any of those interests languish. ArtsWork gave me a great outlet to keep music in my life during my college years.

 * Where do you hope to be with your work in 10 years?

I hope to work on directing my own projects, more than anything. I have a lot of ideas bubbling around and I haven’t been able to get much out of them. I really want to bring all of my various artistic interests together, maybe actually get to finalize those bits and pieces of songs I’ve put together. Whether I’ll ever feel confident enough to go out completely on my own, it’s hard to say, but I certainly hope so.