Professor of Music (Violin)
Joseph Swensen joined the Jacobs School of Music faculty in the fall of 2013. A winner of the Leventritt Foundation Sponsorship Award and the Avery Fisher Career Award, he has appeared as violin soloist with orchestras around the world, including those of Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Baltimore, London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Tokyo.
He has performed in recital and in chamber music concerts in major cultural centers, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. As an exclusive recording artist with BMG Classics and later with Linn Records, his recordings of the major violin concerto repertoire with conductors like André Previn and Jukka-Pekka Saraste have received consistently high acclaim.
Swensen was born in Hoboken, N.J., and raised in Harlem, N.Y., by a Japanese-American mother and a Norwegian-American father, both of whom are professional musicians. He attended Juilliard from the age of seven, first as a piano student of Thomas Schumacher and Christopher Sager and then, at the age of nine, as a violin student of Dorothy Delay. He studied chamber music with Robert Mann and other members of the Juilliard Quartet, Leonard Rose and Felix Galimir. He studied composition with David Diamond and Vincent Persechetti, and coached privately with Isaac Stern over a 10-year period. A passionate chamber musician, Swensen performs in recital with pianist Jeffrey Kahane, and with his trio, Kahane Swensen Brey, alongside Kahane and cellist Carter Brey.
As an active guest conductor, Swensen has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Toronto, St. Louis, Rochester, Colorado and New World symphonies, among others in North America. He has also worked with London’s Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Oslo and Stockholm philharmonics, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse (where he recently completed his first Mahler Symphony cycle) and the Finnish and Swedish Radio symphony orchestras.
In 2014, in addition to guest conducting the London Philharmonic and other orchestras worldwide, he will be violin soloist with orchestras in the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom, in addition to performing a tour of recitals and trios. Also this year, his 25-minute work "Shizue" (written in 1995 in memory of his mother’s sister who was killed in the Hiroshima bombing) will receive its Portuguese premiere by the National Orchestra of Portugal. On Oct. 9, he will deliver a TED Talk, "Habitats for Music and the Sound of Math," about music education and the developing brain, at the New York Institute of Technology.
Swensen, along with his partner, Victoria Eisen, are the founders and directors of the non-profit organization Habitat4Music. Habitat4Music connects highly qualified, passionate, young American-trained classical musicians with children living in challenged areas across the world. It seeks to empower these children by way of long-term, committed, participatory music education while providing an invaluable and unforgettable experience for their young mentors.
Swensen recently received an Honorary Doctorate degree from St. Andrews University in Scotland.