Jordan Dykstra came to Portland after college—after dropping out of college, to be precise. He left Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian campus in suburban L.A., where he was studying music theory, in 2007, to take a summer internship at Marriage Records, the local indie label that released early albums from Tune-Yards, Yacht and Dirty Projectors. "I learned more in that two months than I did in three years in class," says the 29-year-old violist, who went on to become vice president of the label.
Now, Dykstra is returning to Southern California and to school, studying composition and performance at CalArts. He's leaving behind a new album, Audition, a set of ambient string music inspired by the landscape surrounding the property in Bethany, Ore., where it was recorded. Willamette Week spoke to the Iowa-born musician about how Portland influenced the way he thinks about music, his decision to leave—and why he probably won't be back.
WW: In what ways did Portland shape you as a musician?
Jordan Dykstra: Most of the people I met immediately were 10 years older than me, and I became exposed to a wider array of music in general and recording techniques. They were definitely some of the best musicians making some of the weirdest shit in the area, that I knew of, anyway.
What did you take away from your time working at Marriage Records?
To just do it, you know? Don't let the legalities and the way it's supposed to be done and the recording process you learned in school get in the way of making art. If you have the resources and the friends and the tape recorder, you can just make the thing.
Why do you feel the need to go back to college?
I haven't been able to sustain my life with music here in Portland. The economy of instrumental musicians cannot sustain the amount of people who are here. I had a great run. There's so much I'm really proud of. But the thing that really brought me to the idea of going back to school is that I really wanted access to ensembles and players and an orchestra that you really have to find at a school or university. I need an orchestra as my instrument, as a composer, and that's my focus right now, to do things on a much grander scale. There's not too many resources for composers.
Do you think you're done with Portland for good?
I don't think I'll come back. Maybe when I want to raise a family or something. My longer-term plan is to keep going to Europe and establish a life there later on. I know more people who are able to live their life as artists there than I do here. There's something really special about feeling like you have the ability to share your craft with some group of people, and they appreciate it and they'll pay money to see it. It happens here, but…that mindset is often muddled with all kinds of other problems. I don't really want to live in L.A. the rest of my life, I'll tell you that.
SEE IT: Jordan Dykstra plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Davis Lee Hooker, Jason Traeger, Patrik Csak, Caspar Sonnet and DJ Honey O, on Sunday, Aug. 3. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.