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Fifteen Questions Interview with Jennifer Grim

Tobias Fischer & Lara Cory

"I love the intimacy of chamber music. There is the freedom of expression that one has as a soloist but also the enjoyment of finding a communal interpretation as a collective."

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I heard a sixth grader play the flute in a school assembly. I remember hearing her play and thought it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard, and I immediately wanted to learn how to play. I began lessons when I was eight years old, and for the first few years, I mostly played in my school band but eventually started taking private lessons.

Music was one of many different interests I had as a kid, but after a few years, music was the only thing I kept doing.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

I know that some people see colors when they perform, and I wish I had that ability!

I often feel emotions when I perform and try to take the audience on a journey during a concert. Whether playing a piece with a lot of rhythmic drive or something more somber and meditative, my goal is to communicate these emotions through the music.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

My interests have evolved over the years, but I've always been drawn to chamber music and solo repertoire.

This interest began at Yale, which has an intense chamber music program. After graduating, I moved to New York and continued cultivating my chamber music career. At this time, I also started playing a lot of new music. As a young professional musician in NYC, most of the performance gigs I got were with new music organizations. I played with most of the leading ensembles (the early 2000s), including Speculum Musicae, Ensemble Sospeso, and Ensemble 21. I also won a position with my woodwind quintet, the Zéphyros Winds. We were active at the time, performing concerts all over the country, on chamber music series, and at universities.

These experiences (namely new music and chamber music) shaped who I became as an artist. I love the intimacy of chamber music; the format is such that there is the freedom of expression that one has as a soloist but also the enjoyment of finding a communal interpretation as a collective.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please

I identify as a biracial black woman, which plays a large part in how I see myself (and perhaps others) as a musician. I've advocated for inclusive programming for a long time and always wanted to record an album that championed the works of Black and women composers.

I am keenly aware that the industry is trying to do better by hiring more diverse artists and composers. As a "beneficiary" of this process, there is a certain amount of (self-induced) pressure that some may feel that this amount of increased attention is not warranted and that I am hired to fulfill some quota.


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