Violist and director Jennifer Stumm is one of the world’s outspoken voices for the expressive possibilities of her instrument. Jennifer appears on the world’s great stages like Carnegie Hall, Berliner Philharmonie, Kennedy Center, and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Known for the “opal-like beauty” (Washington Post) of her sound and boundary-breaking artistic programming, she is winner of the William Primrose, Geneva, and Concert Artist Guild competitions (and the first violist ever to win first prize). The 2021-22 season brings appearances at festivals around the world, Jennifer’s debut in the large hall of the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, solo tours of Ireland and the UK, and the release of a new album. Jennifer also makes her Lucerne Festival debut, as both director and violist in a new staged program from Ilumina called The Nature of Light.
Jennifer is founder and director of Ilumina, the São Paulo-based artist collective and social equity initiative, which has ascended rapidly to prominence as a modern model for 21st-century creativity and the advancement of diverse talent. Ilumina unites leading international soloists with the best rising talent from Latin America, working and performing side-by-side at the Ilumina festival and on tour around the world, with the goal that worthy talent receives an equal chance to fly. Already almost one hundred Ilumina young artists have gone on to study at leading music schools around the world. Jennifer’s flair for curation and stage direction has received much attention, and Ilumina concerts invite listeners to be immersed in dynamic musical worlds, steadfastly committed to interpretation, and powered by the freshness and energy of cultural exchange.
An enthusiastic speaker and writer, she recently spoke at NASA about how the arts can help innovate toward a better world, and her viral TEDx talk about the viola and the blessings of being different, “The Imperfect Instrument,” was named an editor’s pick of all TED talks and led to a solo debut at the Berlin Philharmonie. Jennifer has released two celebrated solo albums. Her debut recording for Naxos’ Laureate Series featured works by Italian composer and violist Alessandro Rolla, hailed as “an absolutely phenomenal display of virtuoso viola playing” (The New Recordings). She next released her album of Berlioz’s Harold In Italy and performed the work in her unique staging and characterization almost fifty times.
A recipient of the prestigious BBC New Generation Artist and Borletti Buitoni Trust awards for her work in chamber music, she appears at major festivals such as Verbier, Marlboro, Stavanger, Spoleto, Aldeburgh, Delft, and IMS Prussia Cove and regularly appears with Spectrum Concerts Berlin and as a trio with cellist Jens-Peter Maintz and Kolja Blacher.
Jennifer Stumm is Professor of Viola at the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna, International Chair of Viola Studies at the Royal College of Music, London, and gives masterclasses around the world. Since her school days teaching strings in the Atlanta inner city, she has devoted considerable time to supporting young musicians from developing nations, both in-person and online.
Born in Atlanta, Jennifer first heard the viola when she was eight and, enchanted by its sound, began playing in her school’s orchestra. She studied with Karen Tuttle at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School, with Nobuko Imai in Amsterdam, as well as with Steven Isserlis at IMS Prussia Cove, and also pursued interests in politics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Jennifer plays a Gasparo da Salò viola, 1589, generously on loan from a private trust.