Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery, the Mead Composer-in-Residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Musical America’s 2023 Composer of the Year, is an acclaimed composer, violinist and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation and the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. In 2024, Jessie Montgomery won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her Rounds, recorded by Awadagin Pratt and A Far Cry for New Amsterdam Records. 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” (Washington Post)

Her growing body of work includes solo, chamber, vocal and orchestral works. Recent premieres include CSO commissions Hymn for Everyone (2021) and Transfigure to Grace (2023); Five Freedom Songs (2021), a song cycle for soprano Julia Bullock; a set of concertos—DIVIDED (2022), Rounds (2021), and L.E.S. Characters (2020); and a site-specific collaboration for Bard SummerScape and Pam TanowitzDance (2021). Earlier highlights include Shift, Change, Turn (2019), commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Coincident Dances (2018), for the Chicago Sinfonietta; Caught by the Wind (2016) for the Albany Symphony and the American Music Festival, and Banner (2014) — written to mark the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner — for the Sphinx Organization and the Joyce Foundation. Her Soul Force (2015) is featured on the 2022 Grammy Award–winning recording by the New York Youth Symphony. 

Jessie Montgomery was born and grew up on 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 their daughter 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 Montgomery has created a life that merges composing, performance, education and advocacy.

Since 1999, she has been affiliated with the Sphinx Organization, which supports young African-American and Latino string players, and has served as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, the organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble. She was a two-time laureate of the annual Sphinx Competition and was awarded its 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.

She began her violin studies at the Third Street Music School Settlement, one of the nation’s oldest community organizations. A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and a former member of the Catalyst Quartet, she continues to maintain an active performance career as a violinist, appearing regularly with her own ensembles, as well as with the Silkroad Ensemble and Sphinx Virtuosi.

Her teachers and mentors include Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, Alice Kanack, Joan Tower, Derek Bermel, Mark Suozzo, Ira Newborn and Laura Kaminsky. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a graduate fellow in music composition at Princeton University. She is a professor of violin and composition at The New School. In July 2021, she began her three-year appointment as the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to works by Jessie Montgomery on Apple Music.

Listen on Apple Music

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