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About the Work

Quick Look Composer: Jessie Montgomery
Program note originally written for the following performance:
Fortas Chamber Music Concert: The Sphinx Virtuosi with the Catalyst Quartet and Elena Urioste, violin Wed., Oct. 10, 2012, 7:30 PM
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Strum for String Quartet (2006, 2012)                                                                               

Jessie Montgomery                                                                                                                    

Born December 8, 1981 in New York City

 Violinist, composer and music educator Jessie Montgomery began her violin studies at age four at the Third Street Music School Settlement in her native New York City. She was composing and improvising as well by age eleven, and while still in high school twice received the Composer's Apprentice Award from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Montgomery went on to earn a bachelor's degree in violin performance at the Juilliard School and a master's from New York University in film scoring and multimedia; she also studied composition with Derek Bermel and Steven Burke. As a performer and educator, Montgomery was a co-founding member of PUBLIQuartet (an ensemble made up of composers and arrangers, featuring their own music as well as that of other New York-based composers), a member of the Catalyst Quartet and Providence String Quartet (dedicated to using music as a means of exploring possibilities for social change in underserved communities in the Providence area, where she taught violin, improvisation and composition to Community MusicWorks students), a faculty member of the Apple Hill Center in New Hampshire, Music at Port Milford in Canada, and Third Street Music School Settlement in New York, and an affiliated artist with Sphinx, an organization that supports young African-American and Latino string players, in which she was a two-time laureate; she is also currently an active participant in the New York classical and new music scenes. As a composer, Montgomery has created works for concert, theater and film (one of which was in collaboration with her father, Ed Montgomery, also a composer and an independent film producer), and held residencies with the Deer Valley Music Festival, Providence String Quartet and New York Youth Symphony; she was Van Lier Composer Fellow with the American Composers Orchestra in 2011-2012.

Jessie Montgomery wrote, "Strum is the culmination of several versions of a string quintet I wrote in 2006. It was originally composed for the Providence String Quartet and guests of Community MusicWorks Players, then arranged for string quartet in 2008 with several small revisions. In 2012 the piece underwent its final revisions with a rewrite of both the introduction and the ending for the Catalyst Quartet in a performance celebrating the 15th Annual Sphinx Competition. Originally conceived for a quintet of two violins, viola and two cellos, the voicing is often spread over the ensemble, giving the music an expansive sound. Within Strum, I utilized ‘texture motives,' layers of rhythmic or harmonic ostinatos [repeating figures] to form a bed of sound for melodies to weave in and out. The strumming pizzicato serves as a ‘texture motive' and the primary driving rhythmic underpinning of the piece. Drawing on American folk idioms and the spirit of dance and movement, Strum has a kind of narrative that begins with fleeting nostalgia and transforms into ecstatic celebration."