How Jennifer Koh performed new music and commissioned composers during the pandemic

Posted on: September 7, 2021

Jennifer Koh photo by Jürgen Frank / Shuman Associates

“When the pandemic arrived, it hit artists like Jennifer Koh hard,” reports Jeff Lunden on last Monday’s (8/30) National Public Radio. “A classical violinist whose repertoire runs from Bach and Beethoven to newly minted pieces, she returned to her New York home from a concert in March 2020, and within a day found all of her engagements postponed…. Concerned about ways the pandemic was affecting the musical community, she came up with an idea: she asked prominent composers, like Tania León and Vijay Iyer, to write short solo violin pieces, then had them nominate emerging composers to write…. Over the course of 10 weeks, Koh premiered 40 pieces—all of which can be heard now in a digital album newly issued by Cedille…. The established composers donated their works, but the emerging composers received micro-commissions from Koh’s foundation, ARCO Collaborative…. Koh worked closely with each composer over Zoom…. The pieces—each less than five minutes long—are written by a diverse group of artists and run the gamut from contemplative to anxious and even angry…. Through the process, [Koh] notes, she spent time virtually with composers she might not have met otherwise.” Koh is on the League of American Orchestras’ board of directors.