What will the next period of classical music look like? with Jessie Montgomery
Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st- century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful, and exploding with life.”
Jessie was born and raised in Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1980s during a time when the neighborhood was at a major turning point in its history. Artists gravitated to the hotbed of artistic experimentation and community development. Her parents - her father a musician, her mother a theater artist and storyteller - were engaged in the activities of the neighborhood and regularly brought Jessie to rallies, performances, and parties where neighbors, activists, and artists gathered to celebrate and support the movements of the time. It is from this unique experience that Jessie has created a life that merges composing, performance, education, and advocacy.
Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African - American and Latinx musicians. She currently serves as composer-in-residence of the Sphinx Virtuosi, their Organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble. She was a two-time laureate of the Annual Sphinx Competition and was awarded their highest honor, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence. She has received additional grants and awards from the ASCAP Foundation, Chamber Music America, AMerican Composers Orchestra, the Joyce Foundation, and the Sorel Organization.
The New York Philharmonic has selected Jessie as a featured composer for their Project 19, which marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment, granting equal voting rights in the United States to women. Other forthcoming works include a nonet inspired by the Great Migration, told from the perspective of Montgomery’s great-grandfather William McCauley and to be performed by Imani Winds and the Catalyst Quartet; a cello concerto for Thomas Mesa jointly commissioned by Carnegie Hall, New World Symphony, and The Sphinx Organization; and a new orchestral work for the National Symphony.
The Question of the Week is, "What will the next period of classical music look like?" Ms. Montgomery and I discuss what she believes will define the next period of classical music, how to avoid making the same mistakes as our predecessors when writing the narrative of classical music, the widening skillsets of classical musicians, and why it is important for musicians to know how to improvise.
You can find out more about Jessie Montgomery and her amazing music on her website, jessiemontgomery.com.