Jacob plays an organ, with his back turned to the audience, onstage.

Jakob Hamilton ’19

Jakob Hamilton ’19 is not your average pre-med student. Yes, he studies biology. But he also has a second major: music.

This summer—the summer before his senior year—Jakob didn’t pursue research in a lab. Instead, he titled his Morehead-Cain International Research project: “The International Touring Organ: Redefining the Physical and Musical Limitations of Concert Performing on the Organ in the 21st Century.”

The goal of his research was to provide a foundation for his senior thesis, which centers around exploring the performance and technique implications of a portable digital organ on the career of a 21st century concert organist. In planning his summer, Jakob reached out to a world-renowned organist he’d once met named Cameron Carpenter—a man who designed a full-scale portable digital organ called the International Touring Organ (ITO). Jakob spent his summer touring Europe with Cameron, interviewing music-industry experts and receiving one-on-one organ training from Cameron.

Music enthusiasts will be amazed to hear that during the tour, Cameron received a last-minute invitation to perform at L’Olympia Hall in Paris—and Jakob had the opportunity to guest-perform beside him. Jakob was especially delighted that Sony representatives were present at the time to hear him perform.

Looking back, Jakob says this summer was highly influential in his career planning.

“I would argue this summer ultimately helped me decide what it was exactly that I wanted to do with my life,” he says.

“Although I love music and performing on the piano and organ, the industry is competitive. Every year, it gets harder and harder to succeed in it. While I think that now I know I want to go to medical school, I will never lose my passion for performing. It must be with me always.”

Jakob also learned personal lessons from his mentor.

“I spent so much time talking to Cameron about his journey in creating the ITO, and never have I heard about so many struggles and hardships. But his perseverance and love of the instrument drove him to succeed in the end. He showed me that if you care about something enough, or if you have enough determination, you can achieve your goals.”

Curious about his highlights of the trip?

“Over the course of my time working with Cameron, I’ve been able to formulate a myriad of professional relationships across all realms of the music industry ranging from individuals like Hans Zimmer and Yuja Wang to Storm Large, Darren Criss, and even Mick Jagger. Some of them I even had the privilege to perform for. Completely unforgettable.”

Where will your Morehead-Cain summers take you?