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Musicologist Jane Jaffe: Artist with Words

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“I’m more of an illustrator than an artist,” Jane Jaffe will tell you, exhibiting the same genuine humility she does when discussing any of her accomplishments. And those accomplishments are many; her online biography is nothing short of jaw-dropping. All this is in addition to illustrating the delightful children’s book, Count to Knee, with another children’s book rumored to be in the works.

After receiving a bachelor of music degree at Oberlin College, Jane earned her PhD in musicology at the University of Chicago. She spent 29 years working for the Aspen Music Festival as program coordinator and annotator, among numerous other responsibilities, while being highly sought after for her expertise as a historian, orchestra librarian, scholar, professor, researcher and unabashed lover of all things musical.

These characteristics and more make Jane uniquely qualified to write symphony notes for the most extraordinary music groups, assemblies and organizations around the world. She has written literally thousands of notes, available on her website, over the years and institutions of higher learning routinely seek her out as a consultant for her ability and extraordinary breadth of knowledge.

Her father a chemist and mother a social worker, Jane recalls childhood with her siblings as nearly idyllic. Born in Stamford, Connecticut, and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, Jane describes her parents as being endlessly supportive and encouraging to their children. “They really embodied that can-do attitude of the era,” Jane said, telling of her mother’s work at Princeton University and the time her father observed an unmet housing need in the greater Princeton community and jumped into action, rallying support and tradesmen to build over 500 affordable apartments and homes over the years.

Not surprisingly, in addition to community service, education and music were highly valued throughout her upbringing. “All the kids in my family took piano lessons before moving into other areas of music and on to other instruments” Jane explained. “I started with piano before signing up to play cello in grade school,” she said, laughing at the memory of awkwardly lugging the enormous instrument on and off the bus each day. Undaunted when her cello came apart, Jane happily moved on to the guitar and continued her musical journey.

Fans of the Stockton Symphony will recognize Jane for her long-term involvement with the organization and are no doubt well acquainted with her husband, Maestro Peter Jaffe, who is the music director and conductor. Together, Jane and Peter have poured themselves, heart and soul, into every aspect of the symphony and the community since 1995.

For many decades, a visit to the Stockton Symphony has been a favorite destination for school field trips. Jane takes great care to write the instructional information for the students so that they get the most from their special day. She prepares a separate teaching version for the instructors so that the lessons will meet educational requirements. It is a moving and unforgettable experience for the children and Jane is thrilled whenever a young adult approaches her to share their fond memories of such a visit.

While Jane prefers to work behind the scenes rather than performing, she admits there is almost no part of the symphony she isn’t connected with. Audience members will most certainly be familiar with her program notes, in which Jane carefully curates historical information and interesting tidbits about the composer and the musical piece itself, always with the goal of ensuring the audience gets the most out of the live performance. It’s one of the things she loves best about her work.

Gratitude is something Jane practices year-round, and with the holiday season approaching she finds herself focusing especially on loved ones. “I am most grateful to my family, my parents, whom I think of every day and all they did for us—they were so supportive. And Peter, the way we help each other all time, and my kids—I’m just so proud of each of them. And for live music! I’m so grateful for all the creative spirits out there who have struggled throughout history, composers, performers, persevering because they are so passionate about what they do. I love music; it just does something to me.” she said, beaming.

To learn more about the Stockton Symphony and upcoming events, visit To buy Count to Knee, visit