Xavier Magazine

Extra Credit: John Heim, S.J.

John Heim, S.J., arrived at Xavier in 1975. His first job was working in campus ministry and as the chaplain of Brockman Hall. In those early days, Heim also served for five years as chaplain for the basketball team, was associate pastor for Bellarmine Parish and headed the Parents Club. But the initiative for which he’s best known began in 1976, when he launched Xavier’s Music Series.

“I came from Springfield, Ohio. The arts and culture were not so deeply ingrained in that local population. And when I came to the Society, I met the more cosmopolitan types from Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. They had a liking for classical music. I would hear them listening to it. That’s how I got started.”

“When I went to Chicago to teach at Loyola Academy, I was oftentimes the recipient of free tickets to Symphony Orchestra Hall or the recital series. When I came to Cincinnati, I couldn’t find a recital series. It dawned on me that we had a theater in Brockman Hall, so I said, ‘Let’s try that.’ I scrounged up $3,000 and we had a series of six concerts and paid everybody $500.”

“I don’t know how many artists we’ve had—several hundred. Most of them have been classical pianists, and about half that many have been classical guitarists. Then recently we started the swing series, so it’s becoming harder to count because some of them have five or six people, and some of them have 15 people.”

“Some musicians have told me tales that I cannot repeat. I became very close to a great jazz guitarist named Joe Pass and Jean-Ides Thibaudet, who’s a very fine classical pianist. We helped get him started. He’s a good guy and sometimes even likes to come in and play at no cost. He says, ‘You can’t afford me any other way.'”

“New York is a different place than Cincinnati in the sense that Cincinnati only wants to hear what is tried and true, whereas in New York, they’re excited about new talent. Cincinnatians are very conservative, as an audience.”

“When they tore down the old theater on campus, I was worried this new one wouldn’t be sound effective. But from the very beginning, it’s been just fine. We didn’t have to tweak it much at all. It’s great.”

“I think everybody likes music. It’s like breathing. It’s like language: You’ve got to know at least one. I don’t exactly know what’s the chemistry, the soul part, how they meet and combine, but it makes a nice aura.”

“I tried to play the piano for about eight years. The best I could come up with is that I could appreciate somebody who could do that. My first couple of years, my mother was my teacher, but we can’t blame her because then she sent me off to the nun at school where I got my weekly lesson for 50 cents, and that didn’t work either.”

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