2023 PAVA Hall of Fame Inductee: Rising, Acclaimed Guitarist Jacob Seyer
Jacob Seyer, ’10, is an emerging star on the acoustic guitar scene, creating “cinematic, exciting, cathartic and relaxing” music while inspiring creativity wherever he goes.
A Kelso, Missouri native now residing in Bellingham, Washington, Jacob is garnering growing acclaim as not only an incredibly talented acoustic percussive fingerstyle and classical guitarist, but also a teacher, composer and performer, driven to make instrumental music accessible in a safe environment to people of all ages.
PAVA Hall of Fame Induction
The son of Joni and the late Christopher Seyer, ‘83, Jacob is among the 2023 class to be inducted into Notre Dame Regional High School’s Performing and Visual Arts (PAVA) Hall of Fame during a luncheon on April 1 at the high school.
PAVA recognizes Notre Dame alumni or past or present faculty who have excelled in the performing or visual arts – dance, music, theatre and visual arts. PAVA inductees serve as role models of achievement for current and future students, instilling in them the knowledge that they, too, are capable of personal and professional success.
Cynthia King, retired Acting and Stagecraft teacher and director of Notre Dame’s spring musicals for 50 years, nominated Jacob for the honor.
“This award means a lot to me,” Jacob said, and is an acknowledgment of his efforts to “share my music and passion with a new generation of students. What I work towards connects deeply to my family and first home. To receive this validation from one of my earliest forms of education is very gratifying.”
Jacob is the second member of the Seyer family to be inducted into the PAVA Hall of Fame, an honor he calls “incredibly special” as he joins his uncle, Roger Seyer, into this elite circle.
Roger, ’85, who performed on Broadway in Les Misérables, Mamma Mia and Miss Saigon, and toured with Les Misérables and Mamma Mia, was inducted into the PAVA Hall of Fame in 2014.
“To follow in his footsteps means so much to me,” Jacob said. “He’s been a huge influence,” he said, explaining that his uncle has provided him with inspiration, books and his experience as a performer.
Jacob’s Notre Dame Experience
During his time at Notre Dame, Jacob was involved in the Gaming Club, lighting and sound crews for the spring musicals, and Pep Band. He thanks his family and former teachers — Ben Edwards, ‘98, Ellen Seyer, the late Jerry Grim, Steve Mosley and King – all of whom influenced him greatly.
“Profe (Ben Edwards) is number one on my list” of influencers, Jacob says.
Edwards, who serves as Pep Band moderator, made music fun and inspired his taste in music. The two shared the same “weird sense of humor,” he said.
While “most of it was student run,” Edwards was “loose enough” to let us choose our own music, “but he was serious when he needed to be,” Jacob said.
He credits Ellen Seyer, choir teacher, for introducing him to his first music theory class, in which he was one of about six students. Jacob says he continues to draw from the instruction Mrs. Seyer provided in his daily work as a music teacher, transcriber and composer.
He is also grateful for having taken four years of art classes with Grim.
“I loved his style of teaching,” he said, and the mediums of art within which he created were phenomenal.
He laughs recalling former Civics teacher Mosley speed walking around the cafeteria “and giving me the air guitar” as he skirted by. He said he also admires King for her passion and longevity at Notre Dame.
He said that being a part of the lighting crew for the spring musicals was not work he ever envisioned doing, until his childhood friend, Brent McClain, ‘10, encouraged him to participate.
“I was quite introverted at that stage in my life,” Jacob said. “So, sitting at the back in the dark messing with lights and buttons was perfect for me.
“Going through high school is a dicey time,” he said. “Notre Dame offered opportunities in a lot of disciplines to keep me focused. I always felt taken care of there. The teachers very much knew what they were doing,” he said, calling them “crucial” in his development.
Jacob’s Entry into Music
Jacob has 15 years of diverse experience in the music industry with deep roots that took hold early in his youth. From a young age, he was touched by art and music.
“My first band was with Ethan Glueck on guitar, Brent McClain on bass, and me on drums. We were 14 years old and, appropriately, I thought, called ourselves ‘No Common Sense.’ Our first show was at Kelso City Hall, and I think we played a couple of short Green Day tunes,” he said.
He recalls trying out Brent’s bass and Ethan’s guitar, then taking an interest in those instruments.
“Then I played drums and wrote songs with ‘The Parting Scene,’ a band I was in with Jordan Klaffer (Bass), Autumn Vandeven, ’10 (Vocals), and Zach Ramsey (Guitar),” Jacob said. “We played shows and recorded our first four-song EP together midway through high school. Our initial lineup was ‘Truth Be Told,’ with Todd McAnelly, ’09, on bass. Good times!”
During his college years, he gravitated toward an exclusive and newfound journey with the guitar, a path that took him through a variety of genres including prog-metal, percussive acoustic and classical guitar. That exploration prepared him well for his studies in Southeast Missouri State University’s music program at the River Campus, where, in 2014, he completed a Bachelor of Music in classical guitar performance under the tutelage of early-music specialist Dr. Jeffrey Noonan.
Jacob credits several current and former Southeast music faculty — Noonan, Patrick Rafferty, Dr. Brandon Christensen and Dr. Robert Fruehwald — for helping hone his skills to prepare him for life as a musician.
Shifting Gears in the Pacific Northwest
After earning his college diploma, he took a year off before moving to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2015 to pursue a graduate degree. The move to Vancouver also took him closer to his fiancé at the time, and now wife, Deavyn, whose family resides in Washington state.
In the Pacific Northwest, Jacob has immersed himself in his music and his G.R. Bear Concert 000 Acoustic Guitar. In 2017, he completed a Master of Music in guitar performance at the University of British Columbia School of Music under the guidance of Dr. Daniel Bolshoy. Throughout his graduate work, he studied and performed a diverse repertoire – from 16th to 21st century – as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral feature artist.
He calls his graduate school experience “intense,” but added it was “very validating to be there.” His studies consisted of interesting projects with harsh deadlines, sprinkled with visits from accomplished guitarists from around the world who came in to share their talents.
‘Teaching is My Mainstay’
While in graduate school and for three years thereafter, he and his wife, Deavyn, lived in Vancouver, returning to Bellingham, Washington, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
He currently teaches guitar and music theory at Bellinghome School of Music, in Bellingham.
There, he and other independent music instructors teach about 300 students of all ages – youngsters ages 5 and 6 to those in their 60s — in a shared studio space.
“I believe music should be accessible to everybody,” Jacob said.
Bellinghome also connects him with like-minded colleagues and a “tight-knit professional community” of musicians.
Over the past 12 years, Jacob has also provided instruction at the Southeast Missouri Music Academy, Horizons School of Music in Vancouver, Campos Music and the Vancouver Central School of Music, where, in 2018 he was awarded “Teacher of the Year” for his passionate and straightforward approach to music education.
Jacob’s students are all provided a safe and encouraging environment to explore and discover their own voice, some of whom have gone on to pursue music both professionally and academically. They have called his teaching style “enthusiastic,” “compassionate” and “adaptable.”
“Teaching is my mainstay,” Jacob said. “It keeps me grounded. It keeps my income stable, and it keeps me disciplined. Producing, performing and everything else is a bonus.”
Festival Tours and Accolades
As his career begins its crescendo, his days are filled not only with teaching, but also composing, album production and concert and festival tours across the United States, Canada and South America. He’s been a featured performing artist and clinician with the Horizon Live Concert Series; Ignite Master Artist Series at Harding Fine Arts Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; the Vancouver International Guitar Festival; Vancouver Symphony Day of Music; Canada International Arts and Music Society; Pacific Woodlab Concert Series in Vancouver; “RAW: Natural Born Artists” Showcase in Vancouver and Seattle, Washington; Semana De La Guitarra (Week of the Guitar) in El Retiro, Colombia; and the 21st Annual West Coast Guitar Night and Sonic Boom Festival, both in Vancouver.
His progressive style of guitar composition was recently awarded second prize in the 2021 Russian composition competition, “The Time of The Guitar International,” where his piece Relictus (En Aethere) was recognized as “mesmerizing” with “very convincing imagery.” His score for Relictus will be released by the Danish publishing company, Bergmann Edition.
Throughout all facets of his work, Jacob says he particularly enjoys mingling, collaborating and sharing ideas with local artisans of all backgrounds. Because performing involves each of these facets, sharing his music publicly particularly speaks to his soul.
Jacob has recorded three albums. In 2013, he released an EP of solo guitar music, A Change In Season, a compilation of pieces that tells the story of him navigating personal relationships.
After completing his graduate degree, he released his second album, Migration, in 2018. Migration was inspired by his move to the Pacific Northwest and provides commentary on leaving his home in Missouri to pursue his life goals.
The full-length LP features 18 tracks recorded over three days at Turtle Recording Studios in South Surrey, British Columbia. The album has been praised for its “mesmerizing imagery,” “sophisticated” composition and diverse influences.
The album was picked up by Naz Music Inc., an independent British Columbia Media Publisher specialized in instrumental music, which distributed the album to streaming platforms, and TV and film producers in more than 40 countries. Jacob spent much of 2018 and 2019 touring and performing the music of Migration, which included a South American swing.
Last year, he produced his third album, Western Skies, which was signed by the acclaimed music label, CandyRat Records, operated by Rob Poland. The album is described as melodically interweaving, rhythmically complex and energetic with storytelling. Western Skies was inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the sunsets that connect Missouri with western Washington, Jacob said.
“Both of my homes are connected by the same sunset,” he said. “It’s very inspiring to be a musician in this part of the world.”
Brian Clarks of Minor 7th Magazine reviewed Western Skies, calling it “full of fire, grace and beauty, with compositions rich in rhythmic and harmonic interest.”
Jacob has transcribed his music from Western Skies into sheet music for guitarists to study and learn. He hopes listeners find his music “cinematic” and “image invoking,” painting pictures in which everyone takes something different away from it.
For now, Jacob says he hopes to just “keep doing what I’m doing.”
He says he is happy to have family and to have developed a network of friends in Washington state.
“It’s a good community,” he said.
“I want to give a shout-out to all of those who have supported me over the years,” he said, adding he is deeply appreciative of his family – his mother, late father, his sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, particularly Roger, Teresa, and Beverly, his mother-in-law Cynthia West and the entire West family. He especially credits his wife Deavyn for inspiring him, calling her “very influential, supportive and loving” while providing him with honest feedback about his work.
“I love what I do,” he added. “Career musicianship is humbling, challenging, exciting and, at times, surreal. I’m incredibly grateful to work as a musician. It has provided me with some amazing opportunities.”
Jacob closes by attributing this award to a significant milestone in his life.
“Ten years ago, in 2013, my life changed abruptly. I met the love of my life, Deavyn, then released my first album, beginning the pursuit of my music career. That same year, Deavyn and I both unexpectedly and in separate parts of the country, lost our fathers, Charles West and Chris Seyer. After a year of spending time apart with our families, we moved forward with plans to pursue our graduate degrees and our lives together in the Pacific Northwest, which brings us to where we are now, 10 years later. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of receiving the PAVA Hall of Fame award during this decade anniversary of so many significant events in my life. I can’t help but reflect on the massive amounts of love Deavyn and I are surrounded by every day, and how the care and patience put forward by those around us connects us to those we’ve lost. I’m confident our fathers would be proud.”
To read more about Jacob and his career, listen to his music and watch his videos, visit www.jacobseyer.com. His music is available around the globe on streaming sites, including Apple Music, Google Play, iTunes Store, Instagram, deezer, Napster, Spotify, Tidal and Patreon.