Part-time teacher, full-time musician

Jonathan Bower moved to Anchorage 15 years ago to work on writing a memoir. Since then, he has returned to school and began teaching as a professor in the English department. Photo credit: Young Kim

Jonathan Bower moved to Anchorage nearly 15 years ago to pursue writing a novel and today finds himself teaching creative writing at UAA and working on his latest record as a musician. How did he end up here?

“My original thoughts for moving to Alaska centered around me wanting to write a memoir about my time growing up in Philly. I thought that in order to write about that place, I needed to get far away from it, get a different perspective. That’s what brought my family and I up here, but I’ve stayed here for a few other reasons,” Bower said.

After landing in Anchorage, Bower decided to go back to school, except not as a student. He began working at UAA in the English as a second language program, to make money for his family that being a writer couldn’t at the time. Bower has stayed a professor at UAA since, but now he has moved to teaching in the creative writing department.

“It has been great to teach at the university, especially in subjects that I still enjoy learning about as well. I learn as much from the students that walk in learn from me,” Bower said.

In more recent years, Bower has picked up on something he left behind in Philadelphia: his music career. Since he moved to Alaska to originally pursue writing a novel, Bower felt that he needed to put making music on the back burner. He was in several different bands before he made his move to Alaska, where he played guitar, wrote lyrics and sang.

“I’ve always had this need to write, more specifically in poetry. All the words in your head kind of gnaw at you if you don’t get them out in some way. Writing music is the best outlet for that, so it was really good for me to be apart of something with other musicians. Even when I was up here not making music, I would still write it,” Bower said.

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After taking upwards of ten years off of music, Bower decided to find his way back to one of his passions several years ago. With inspirations like John Prine and Leonard Cohen, Bower’s music sounds like a mix of folk and contemporary styles, using an acoustic guitar and his voice as the primary instruments. His most recent release in Anchorage is called “Hope, Alaska,” which was released in 2014.

“Because I teach writing classes, and kind of just have a book in my face at all times, I find that literature, things outside of just other songs and musicians, serve as large influences on my music. Even photography and some of our local photographers here now really inspire me just as much as music itself does,” Bower said.

Bower is currently in the beginning process of working on a new record, with all of his lyrics written and awaiting recording time. For Bower, music may have not been the purpose of his journey to Alaska, but it has become one of his reasons for staying.