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Making a Difference: Jay Flippin

Perfect Pitch

Arts Programming

Making music, says Jay Flippin of Morehead, is as natural as breathing.

As a child in rural Virginia, Flippin took piano lessons for as long as they were available, but when his teacher moved away, he continued learning on his own, playing piano for three churches, several bands, and more.

When you live in a rural area, like we do, you can’t afford to go to New York City to see a Broadway show, or even to Cincinnati or Louisville, but once or maybe twice a year. But I can turn on KET and I can see it. I can see a symphony or a string quartet or I can watch a ballet or watch a play.
Jay Flippin – musician

Now, though “retired,” he notes with a smile, he’s still teaching courses at two universities, playing in several groups, and accompanying choirs from the local high school and his church to the Lexington Singers.

“I’m generally playing somewhere,” said the versatile performer, who plays rock ‘n’ roll as readily as “Rhapsody in Blue.” And though the life of this four-decade member of the Lexington Philharmonic is literally filled with the sound of music, he seeks out even more through KET.

“What I get out of KET is access to the arts,” said the Emmy Award-winning composer, whose music has been featured on soap operas and documentaries nationally.

“Can you imagine how much you’d spend if you bought tickets to all the jazz events and symphonies, operas and ballets, chamber music and bluegrass festivals?” he asked. “You’d be out several thousand dollars a year. So making a monetary contribution to KET is a no-brainer.”

And with KET, Flippin says, these performances are as close as his own living room.

“When you live in a rural area, like we do, you can’t afford to go to New York City to see a Broadway show, or even to Cincinnati or Louisville, but once or maybe twice a year.

“But I can turn on KET and I can see it. I can see a symphony or a string quartet or I can watch a ballet or watch a play,” he said.

Though Flippin says he’s fortunate to have been able to make his living in music, he quickly acknowledges the arts are often seen as “extra” and not as important as practical careers.

“The reason we live is because of art. Passion, romance and all those things you can’t put in a test tube—that’s what makes life worth living,” notes Flippin, who is the 2006 recipient of the Artists Award from the Kentucky Arts Council.

“Art gives us a way of expressing the emotional side of us that you don’t get with engineering and law and medicine and those kinds of things. It’s part of the human dimension. It’s part of all of us. People keep making art. They can’t help it.”

And it’s not just performance programs on KET that Flippin values.

“Series like Downton Abbey are really well-written and well-acted—and even the music’s pretty good,” he said.

“It’s high-quality stuff that you couldn’t get if you had to travel to it. Very few people have the time or the money or the access. But what KET and public broadcasting do is give me access to things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

“And for that, any amount that I contribute is absolutely a bargain.”