Grant Wood Artist in Residence, violinist Josh Henderson to present premiere of Iowa-inspired multidisciplinary work

Henderson, who is currently serving a year-long appointment as the Grant Wood Artist in Residence at the University of Iowa, will give his multidisciplinary performance on April 4.


Isabella Cervantes

Joshua Henderson, a violinist who is the Grant Wood Artist in Residence at the University of Iowa, poses for a portrait in the Voxman Music Building on Monday, March 28, 2022.

Ariana Lessard, Arts Reporter

On Feb. 3, 1959, American rock-and-roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, IA, along with their pilot, Roger Peterson.

This year, Josh Henderson, a professional violinist and composer from New York City, will honor the Clear Lake tragedy through music and dance on April 4.

Henderson will give the multidisciplinary performance at the University of Iowa’s Voxman Music Building. Henderson is a Grant Wood Artist in Residence at the UI with a one-year appointment.

“This music that I compose, it is of a kind of blend of styles,” Henderson said. “Those gentlemen [are] coming from a rock tradition that very much embraces that.”

In addition to dancers from the UI Department of Dance, Henderson’s show will include several other musicians on a variety of instruments, as well as stage lighting by a local designer, Gabi Vanek. Although his main instrument is violin, Henderson can also play viola and piano.

“I started playing piano when I was like, born,” Henderson said. “I lived with my grandparents when I was younger, my parents were still in school, and they had one lying around — they were very big lovers of music.”

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Although he was initially drawn to the piano, Henderson elaborated that his motives for learning multiple instruments were social. He said that is another benefit of music — it brings people from different walks of life together and unites them under a mutual language.

“When I was about 9 years old or so I went to like a little summer program through a church in Iceland and Tallahassee, Florida.” Henderson said. “I was there for piano, and I had some friends doing the orchestra thing, which was kind of more social.”

Henderson’s desire to hang out with his orchestra friends inspired him to expand to violin. He noted that when he was 9 years old, the violin seemed the most manageable for his small size. He also explained that composing music wasn’t so much a conscious choice, but rather something he found himself drawn to.

“[Composing] is also something I’ve been doing for a long time since I was a young kid, just for fun and stuff like that,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s choice to make the performance multidisciplinary also came naturally. He said that genres in music are more for the sake of making songs digestible for advertising reasons, but that music itself surpasses genre.

“I think even like, Duke Ellington really famous for saying like, ‘Yeah, this isn’t like jazz music, it’s just, you know, music,’” Henderson said.

Henderson, whose childhood was shaped by a passion to create music, touched upon the difference that teaching children can make. He said that, in the same way that sports instill discipline, music demands the same.

“If you’re going to follow or, you know, it’s gonna study any kind of musical discipline, like the keyword is that ‘discipline,’” Henderson said. “You learn discipline in a certain way that is necessary for your success on said instrument.”