Jacob Taurins died suddenly of pancreatic cancer in 2018. He had a rare form of Progressive Multiple Sclerosis for 29 years – he was diagnosed just one week before his 21st birthday. He decided he would live by the philosophy “Do what you can do, forget what you can’t do”, and he went on to achieve remarkable accomplishments.
Jacob was a student at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar (PEG). First, he played the recorder then the violin and the viola. The music department discovered Jacob’s gift once he had his hands on the piano. The piano and music would be an enormous part of his life. Hours upon hours he would sit and play the piano. He sang in the choir, played hockey and never really studied but received a score of 98% on his HSC. He would read the entire set of encyclopedias and the bible and then be able to recite certain passages.
After PEG, Jacob went to Melbourne University. This was a place where he felt he really fitted in as was able to associate with like-minded intellects. He was able to feed his mind with all it craved. He graduated from his arts/commerce degree from Melbourne University and then completed a music degree at La Trobe.
MS was Jacob’s job as well as the Rotarian Action Group of MS Awareness. The RAGMSA is Jacob’s legacy. Started by him and his parents under the Rotary umbrella, it is now a global organisation that works tirelessly to promote research and awareness of MS. There is now a PHD scholarship named in Jacob Taurins’s honour.
Jacob enjoyed singing in the Melbourne Gospel Singers for many years. He couldn’t play the piano any more but he could still sing. And when he couldn’t sing any longer, he enjoyed his private tutoring with his composition teacher Neil. Music composition was his other job and greatest passion. He composed music across many genres. With the support of Maria (his main carer) and an entire team of scribers and other people assisting him, Jacob completed an honours degree in music composition at Melbourne University. His final piece was written for an entire orchestra played by music students from University of Melbourne (at the Victorian College of the Arts).
He had plans for further study; however, his MS challenged him. Jacob’s entire focus then turned to working on his life living with Progressive MS and working for RAGMSA. Music was Jacob’s life until the very end.
On 23 June 2019, the Melbourne Composers’ League presented two concerts of music by contemporary Australian composers in their Elbow Room Mini Festival held at St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Richmond, Victoria, Australia. The festival was dedicated to Jacob and featured the World Premiere of his composition “Study for Flute and Piano” performed by Johanna Selleck (flute) and Danaë Killian (piano). In attendance were his loving parents and main carer, Maria.
The Study for Flute and Piano was composed by Jacob in 2014 when Jacob was studying at the University of Melbourne. As his tutors, Johanna Selleck and Andrián Pertout had the pleasure and honour of working with Jacob as he prepared his composition folio. Johanna and Jacob discussed the first draft of his Study for Flute and Piano and Jacob was intending to revise and develop the work based on these discussions. The performance (presented below) is an attempt to realise the piece according to Jacob’s wishes. The piece is a substantial serialist work for flute and piano built on cyclical combinations and permutations of 12-tone rows, which evolve through rhythmic changes and dramatic effects of controlled speeding and slowing. The result is a work of immense energy and momentum in the hallowed tradition of a virtuosic ‘study’ designed to develop, challenge and display the technical prowess of the performers.
Click here for video of live performance: Study for Flute and Piano (2014) composed by Jacob Taurins