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Patrick Kerssen Jazzed About Music and Moravian

Patrick Kerssen plays a Steinway at Foy Hall Moravian University

Jazzed about Music and Moravian

Before Moravian, Patrick Kerssen didn’t know he would become a musician. Even though he’d been playing piano since the age of six, introduced to the instrument by his father, an accomplished accordionist. In high school, as he mulled over potential pursuits, he bounced back and forth between music and business. “I wavered because I wasn’t confident in my ability as a pianist,” says Kerssen. But by March of his senior year he settled on music and Moravian University. He entered Moravian’s music program in fall of 2014 and everything came together, much like that perfect jazz performance when all the musicians jell.

As a freshman he studied classical piano, jazz piano, and jazz trumpet. “One of the strengths of the Moravian University music program is that you can take up to three performance courses each semester and it’s included in your tuition. At other schools you have to pay extra,” explains Kerrsen. “Being able to take multiple lessons was a blessing because classical wasn’t quite jiving with me.”

Jazz hit all the right notes.

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As a freshman, Kerrsen auditioned and was selected for the Moravian University Big Band, and has been with the group ever since. By his sophomore year, he found his groove in jazz piano and backed off the trumpet.

“What I love most about playing jazz are those times when everyone jells. It feels really good,” says Kerssen. “You can play together for an hour and it doesn’t ever come together, but when it does, there’s nothing like it in the world.”

And because the music program at Moravian University is small in size and big in quality, Kerssen has had many opportunities to enjoy that nothing-like-it-in-the-world feeling. He plays with the Big Band, a jazz combo, and solo. He’s performed several gigs at Hotel Bethlehem, Porter’s Pub and Pearly Baker’s in Easton, Louie’s in Allentown. He’s even played at the Deer Head Inn, in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania—the oldest continuously running jazz club in the country and a Mecca for jazz artists.

One of Kerssen’s most prized experiences was the two weeks he spent last summer immersed in jazz in the Czech Republic with Moravian University music students and faculty. They played clubs in Prague and all over the country and took part in a summer jazz workshop. “If I had to name the best weeks of my life, those would be in my top five,” says Kerssen, who—not surprisingly—will be going again this August.

"You can take up to three performance courses each semester and it’s included in your tuition. At other schools, you have to pay extra."

Not only has Kerssen performed in jazz bands and combos, he’s been in front of them. This past summer he helped mentor high school musicians at the Moravian University Summer Jazz Camp. And now entering his senior year, he has been selected student director of the Moravian University Big Band for which he’ll help choose music, run rehearsals when director Neil Wetzl is unavailable, and possibly write a piece for performance.

Kerssen has enjoyed a rich, varied, and colorful musical education here at Moravian University, and he gives thanks for the Betty Aierstock Moore Scholarship that he was awarded as a freshman. “It was the best day at the mail box ever!” Kerssen enthuses. Not only does the scholarship reduce the debt he will owe when he graduates, it makes it possible for Kerssen to study jazz in Prague again this summer.

What’s next for the jazz pianist with the 3.94 GPA and double major in music education and performance? Kerssen doesn’t know just yet. He might teach. He might pursue graduate school. Perhaps he’ll take a piano gig on a cruise ship (“There’s no winter in the Bahamas,” he says.). 

He’ll play it as he feels it. What’s certain is that the theme will be jazz.