Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Jennifer Choi '92

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New music and classical violinist

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

As a young girl, Jennifer Choi ’92 diligently practiced classical music on her violin. But when she’d go to the symphony with her parents, the unique, contemporary works were the ones that got to her. At home she’d pick out odd, atonal music on the piano, and revel in its coolness. That unconventional ear of hers has set the pace for her career as one of the most skilled and adventurous performers on the international classical and new music scene.
 
Playing in student groups at Oberlin and Juilliard, Jennifer continued to savor the works of new composers such as John Corigliano and John Adams, and innovative figures such as John Zorn and Wadada Leo Smith, who sought her out to play their works and honor her with solo pieces. Working with living composers brought a freshness and depth to her performances: “Being able to work closely with a composer so that you understand the sound concept he or she has in mind, and its meaning, creates a special bond,” says Jennifer. “After understanding a work so closely, the performances become more meaningful and animated.”
 
Jennifer’s career and critical acclaim continue to grow as she performs worldwide, both solo and with ensembles. The works she plays often demand that she break the bounds of conventional technique, often incorporating electronics and improvisation—the most exciting part for her. “Improvisation is the most creative thing a musician can do because it’s all about creating music in the moment and making it work.”
 
Jennifer is relieved that she finally acknowledged her natural gift for the avant-garde, after first struggling to embrace it, and glad to have avid listeners for the challenging music she plays. “Audiences have become much more open-minded and accustomed to multiple and cross genres, and as always appreciative of great art and great music,” she says.
 

“Catlin Gabel had a big influence in my musical choices: any project I take on has to be musically rewarding and at the same time enrich my life.”