Jacksonville Symphony Welcomes Violinist Jennifer Koh

On April 5th and 6th, Jacksonville Symphony Music Director Courtney Lewis will be joined on stage by internationally acclaimed violinist Jennifer Koh for Sergei Rachmaninoff’s hauntingly beautiful Symphony No. 2. In this Arbus edition celebrating the impact women have had in business, the Jacksonville Symphony is taking the opportunity to highlight the impact Jennifer Koh is making on classical music.
Born in Chicago of Korean parents, Koh began playing the violin by chance, choosing the instrument in a Suzuki-method program only because spaces for cello and piano had been filled. At the incredibly young age of eleven, she made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She has gone on to have a career that encompasses so much more than playing the violin; from promoting diversity and inclusivity in the industry to teaching and inspiring young musicians, Jennifer Koh has truly made an impact on classical music.
A particular passion of Koh’s is her desire to explore and help create new music. She has expanded the contemporary violin repertoire through a wide range of commissioning projects, and has premiered more than seventy works written especially for her. Her quest for the new and unusual, sense of endless curiosity and ability to lead and inspire a host of multidisciplinary collaborators truly set her apart. Koh has multiple critically acclaimed music series that have grown and expanded over the past seasons: The New American Concerto, Limitless, Bach and Beyond, Shared Madness and Bridge to Beethoven.
Of these programs, Shared Madness, a celebration of the support that exists between artists, is perhaps the most personal for Jennifer Koh.
“Shared Madness is a project that tells the story of an amazing and generous community of fellow artists and friends who came to my aid at a time when I desperately needed their support and help,” says Koh.
The series was created during the eight year period during which Koh was working to raise funds in order to purchase a violin that she could perform on for the rest of her life. Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, supporters of new music, stepped in to relieve a great deal of Koh’s debt and agreed to accept music commissions as payment instead of funds. The response was heartwarming to say the least. Koh’s fellow community of artists came rushing to help.
“These composers have given me the great gift of writing a new work for me to help support this project and they come from a community of colleagues and friends with whom I have worked over the years. Shared Madness celebrates the support of these friends, encapsulates the intensity of the creative process shared between composer and performer, and ultimately reveals the incredible support network that exists between artists.”
How does it work? Each composer has offered to write a solo violin work exploring the relationship between the violinist and the instrument. Similar to the way that Paganini wrote landmark caprices exploring the relationship of virtuosity and the violin in the 19th century, Shared Madness explores the meaning of virtuosity in the 21st century.
“As an extension of the idea of community that created Shared Madness, I hope to pay it forward by continuing to offer free performances of the composers’ works within the communities in which we work and live; and educational workshops for student composers and instrumentalists which encourage and support the intense relationship between composers and performers so that our ‘shared madness’ will continue to inspire the next generation of artists,” says Koh.
An up-and-coming project for the violinist is The 38th Parallel: A Contemporary Pansori. The one-hour, multimedia work explores the impact of displacement and immigration, and individual and familial transformation through music, visual art and movement. Conceived by Koh and composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière, The 38th Parallel connects the transformation of three generations of human lives and encapsulates the experience of cultural uprooting and assimilation.
The Jacksonville Symphony is excited to welcome Jennifer Koh to the First Coast in April. Having created an impact on and off the concert stage, she is sure to captivate the Jacksonville audience.
Visit JaxSymphony.org for event details, program notes and additional information.

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