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Creative confidence drives alumnus Jeff Boratko

By Kate Callahan ’14

Jeff Boratko ’16 started what might be called the overture to his future career at CCSU.

“I learned more about creativity here than any other place in my life,” he says.  

That creative boost fueled his undergraduate workload, which grew to include an unexpected turn as a composer for four Theatre Department productions: “A Dream Play” by August Strindberg; William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale”; “A Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni; and Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.”

“These experiences gave me the confidence that I could successfully work in music as a profession, in ways outside of teaching,” Boratko says. “CCSU’s role in my success was massive. It was two-fold. In the Music Department I learned how to perform and compose an extraordinary amount of music in a short amount of time consistently.

“The other side was the theater department … I took a course in Theater Improv and in that class I was given a tremendous amount of creative freedom and was taught to just go wild with the creative impulse,” Boratko explains. 

In his next CCSU production, “A Servant of Two Masters,” Boratko took a turn on the stage.

“That was exciting because I got to be an actor,” he says. “My character only spoke through a saxophone.”

In his senior year, Boratko was asked to compose music for “The Winter’s Tale,” which presented him with a new creative challenge.

“With Shakespeare, sometimes people will change the time period to make it more relatable. CCSU’s production was set from 1953 to 1969, so you get the cultural gamut of the Korean War all the way up to Woodstock. The character Autolycus was a cross between a wandering troubadour and a thief, so I made him a Baby (Bob) Dylan type. The goal was to make him some type of folk archetype from American culture.”

Boratko was brought on after graduation to compose for the 2018 production of “Mother Courage and Her Children” at CCSU.

He notes, “All the music was performed by the cast and then me. The logistics of that and working with people who hadn’t gone to college for music but who understood music from an emotional place took a lot of cross-communication or translation.”

Today, Boratko teaches full-time at Noteworthy Music in Torrington. In addition, he is a member of multiple bands, including Feed the Need, a jam band out of Collinsville. One of his former bands, Phonosynthesis, won the Best Jam Band award at the 2017 Connecticut Music Awards.

When Boratko isn’t teaching, he’s composing.

“It’s a mix of working at a piano or keyboard, working with a computer, and old-school ink and paper,” he says. “The music follows me wherever I go, and sometimes I have to hum something into my phone or frantically search for some paper to scribble an idea down.”

His work also has garnered a steady flow of freelance composition projects.

“I do a lot of varied projects. I wrote a piece for marimba and choir that was performed at the Yale Summer Music Shed in Norfolk. It was premiered by the choir Joyful Noise and marimba player Andrew Thomson,” he explains.

Boratko also recently works as an assistant with seven-time Grammy winner Paul Winter, one of Boratko’s musical influences.

When asked about his life philosophy, he says “a major part of it is living in the moment and understanding that you are a small part of something much greater.”

His career trajectory proves his point.

“I had almost given up on trying to be a professional musician,” Boratko says. “Then when I wasn’t trying to do it anymore, things fell into place and suddenly I met a lot of people who are in the Connecticut music scene, who are brilliant and talented.”

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