Jessie Montgomery is a violinist, composer and music educator from New York City.  She performs and gives workshops in the US and abroad and her compositions are being performed by orchestras and chamber groups throughout the country.

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 there and it was a hotbed of cultural activity and community development.  Her parents (father a musician, her mother, an actress) 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 in which performance, creativity, education and advocacy merge. 

Jessie began her violin studies, at the Third Street Music School Settlement, one of the oldest community organizations in the country. Upon graduating with her Bachelor’s degree from the Juilliard School in Violin Performance in 2003, she joined forces with Community MusicWorks in Providence, Rhode Island, a nationally recognized leader in community development and music education. With this appointment came her first experience as a professional chamber musician as a member of the Providence String Quartet.  She continued her chamber music endeavors as a founding member of PUBLIQuartet, a string quartet made up of composers and arrangers, featuring their own music as well as that of emerging and established contemporary composers.  Since 2012 she has held post as a member of the highly acclaimed Catalyst Quartet, raved by the New York Times as “invariably energetic and finely burnished…performing with earthly vigor”, touring regularly in the United States and abroad. Most recently she has become a collaborator with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble and will tour with them in the upcoming 2018-19 season.  

Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports the accomplishments of young African-American and Latino string players.  As a member of the Sphinx network she has played numerous roles within the organization, as a teacher, juror, orchestra member and concertmaster, panelist and ambassador, as well as being a two-time laureate in their annual competition. Jessie was also Composer-in-Residence with the Sphinx Virtuosi, a conductor-less string orchestra which toured her music for 3 seasons.  The tours resulted in radio broadcasts on Performance Today, WFMT in Chicago, Q2 and others, and a review in the Washington Post calling her music “Turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life.”  In 2014, Jessie was awarded Sphinx’s generous MPower grant to assist in the recording of her acclaimed debut album, Strum: Music for Strings (October, 2015, Azica Records). The Whole Note states that the album displays “a remarkable self-assurance and confidence together with a striking musical inventiveness and imagination”; and Second Inversion, Seattle’s alternative classical radio station, remarks that “The album combines classical chamber music with elements of folk music, spirituals, improvisation, poetry and politics, crafting a unique and insightful new-music perspective on the cross-cultural intersections of American history.” 

In 2012, Jessie completed her graduate degree in Composition for Film and Multimedia at New York University, at which point composing became a true focus on her path. Opportunities came about to partner with the American Composers Orchestra, the Sphinx Organization and chamber groups throughout New York City. Other commissions began to emerge from the Albany Symphony, the Joyce Foundation, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Young People’s Chorus of NY. 

In fall 2018, Jessie will be an incoming Virginia B.Toulmin Fellow at the Centre for Ballet and the Arts, where she will complete work on a new ballet for Dance Theater of Harlem and the Virginia Arts Festival, in collaboration with choreographer Claudia Schreier. Other upcoming highlights include premieres of new work for soprano Julia Bullock, The Muir Quartet and performances by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. 

Teachers and mentors include Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, Alice Kanack, Joan Tower, Derek Bermel, Mark Suozzo, Ira Newborn and Laura Kaminsky. 

Music is my connection to the world. It guides me to understand my place in relation to others and challenges me to make clear the things I do not understand. I imagine that music is a meeting place at which all people can converse about their unique differences and common stories.
— Jessie
 Photo by Jiyang Chen

Photo by Jiyang Chen