Harpist Jennifer R. Ellis (D.M.A. University of Michigan, M.M. Cleveland Institute of Music, B.M. Oberlin) is a dynamic contemporary performer who thoroughly enjoys defying traditional expectations about harp playing. It is in that spirit that she became the first harpist ever named a One Beat fellow–a cultural diplomacy program the U.S. State Department in conjunction with Found Sound Nation. She was also the first harpist to be accepted to Bang on a Can’s Summer Festival, Splice Institute for Electroacoustic Music, and the Fresh Inc. Festival. In addition to performing her own harp compositions, Dr. Ellis has worked with composers to perform over eighty premieres. A 2014 Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab fellow, she was a founding member of the Admiral Launch Duo, OINC, and Seen/Heard Trio and was selected to accompany Stevie Wonder at the opening of Oberlin’s new jazz building.
Dr. Ellis is a recipient of a 2014 Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellowship, a 2013 Rackham Centennial Fellowship and the 2012 Alice Chalifoux Prize in Harp. In addition to two artist residencies at Wildacres and performances at the National Orchestra Institute, Texas Music Festival, Spark Festival, and Britten Pears Emerging Composers Residency, Dr. Ellis has toured the U.S. and Canada as a concert soloist with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra. She holds awards in the Coeur d’Alene Young Artists, Ladies Musical Club of Seattle, Inez Stafford, and California State American String Teachers Association competitions and has received both AT&T Foundation and Conservatory Dean’s scholarships.
Dr. Ellis is committed to working directly with composers. In addition to eighty premieres, she has run workshops on composing for the harp and harp and electronics at the Atlantic Music Festival, Fresh Inc. Festival, Bang on a Can Summer Festival, Bowling Green State University, Cleveland State University, University of Hartford, Miami University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of North Carolina at Greensboro and University of Michigan. She also founded the freshly-launched Ask a Harpist Project, a video blog dedicated to answering composer submitted questions about the harp. Her new music harp and saxophone ensemble, The Admiral Launch Duo, emphasizes commissioning up-and-coming composers and interarts collaboration. Last season, they returned to Avaloch for a third residency and performed at Michigan State University, Kalamazoo Piano Company, SCCC Chamber Music Series, UMass Amherst, The Hartt School, North American Saxophone Alliance Conference at Texas Tech University, Harps Etc., and San Francisco’s Center for New Music. She also plays with the new music ensembles All Sanctuary and Seen/Heard Trio, featured at Omaha Under the Radar and recent residents at UNC Greensboro.
Dr. Ellis has focused on expanding the vocabulary of the harp. Her primary doctoral research traces the social networks of composers and explores how extended techniques emerge from interlocking artistic communities. Her recent work with the IRCAM’s motion sensor technology at the Atlantic Festival resulted in the premiere of Weav-Weav-Weaving for Harp and Interactive Electronics. This work was featured on the Carnegie Hall Music Exchange online community, Composers Circle, the Splice Institute, the Five College New Music Festival, Miami University, and on the inaugural Listening to Ladies concert at the Kalamazoo Piano Company.
Deeply passionate about community engagement, Dr. Ellis earned her Girl Scout Gold Award running a music program for students in inner-city Richmond, CA, a project that led the San Francisco Bay Council to nominate her as a Young Woman of Distinction for 2006. This experience spurred her to participate in Oberlin’s social entrepreneurship program and complete graduate coursework at the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Management. She has performed in settings ranging from Ronald McDonald houses to psychiatric wards to arts-based literacy projects for at-risk youth. Beyond her own community engagement work, she has focused on learning best practices for training undergraduate music students in community engagement in her Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellowship at the University of Michigan. And, she has worked to support other musicians in their community engagement efforts by running training workshops on building meaningful community partnerships, a workshop that first debuted at Harps Etc. in California.
Dr. Ellis is dedicated to innovative music pedagogy and has taught a combination of harp, eurhythmics and music theory privately as well as at institutions including Harps Etc., Avon School of Music, Oberlin Secondary Instrument Program, Cleveland School for the Arts, and Young Artist’s Harp Seminar. She has given masterclasses at Interlochen and Michigan State University and she was the 2013 guest instructor for the University of Michigan MPULSE Harp Institute. She is a flexible clinician and gave over a dozen university workshops or guest lectures in the 2015-2016 season. She founded a eurhythmics program for University of Michigan music students that has expanded to include five levels of study. She specializes in inclusive teaching practices and her commitment to teaching has led her to help train other teachers through teaching eurhythmics pedagogy and leading practice teaching facilitations and training workshops for University of Michigan Graduate Student Instructors. She has helped to train music educators on using tools from eurhythmics in classroom teaching through workshops for NafME at UMass Amherst and University of Michigan. She served as the harp department assistant at both Oberlin and CIM and has published in The American Harp Journal and Harp Column Magazine. Dr. Ellis studied harp with Yolanda Kondonassis, Jessica Siegel, and Alice Giles and earned her D.M.A. in Harp Performance with a Certificate of Musicology and CRLT Graduate Teacher Certificate with Joan Holland and Charles Garrett at the University of Michigan. She is a 2017-2018 UC Davis artist-in-residence and a guest artist for the 40th Anniversary Festival of New American Music. She teaches at Harps Etc. and is on the preparatory and adult extension faculties at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.