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Dana Jessen

Oberlin, OH      

Praised for her diverse talents, bassoonist Dana Jessen is in high demand as a soloist, chamber musician, improviser and new music specialist. Dana is the co-founder of Splinter Reeds, a San Francisco-based reed quintet, and has performed with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Dal Niente, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, S.E.M. Ensemble, Calefax Quintet, Rushes Ensemble, Pamela Z, Lucky Dragons, and the Amsterdam Contemporary Ensemble, among others. Her strong ambitions to explore free jazz and creative improvisation have led to performances throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States with such improvisers as Wilbert de Joode, Frank Gratkowski, Michael Vatcher, Joe Morris, Taylor Ho Bynum, Michael Moore, Mary Halvorson, Ab Baars, Anne La Berge, Erica Dicker, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Mike Reed and many others.

Dana’s tireless commitment to expand the modern bassoon repertoire through collaborations with composers from around the globe has led to dozens of new solo, chamber, and electroacoustic works. In 2009, Dana led a consortium commissioning project to support the creation of Rushes, an hour-long composition for seven bassoons by composer and Bang On a Can co-founder, Michael Gordon. Rushes has been described as an evening length tour-de-force and hailed as “fascinating…Gordon’s simple transformations achieve, in all their simplicity, a great expressiveness” (NRC-Dutch National Newspaper).

Recent projects include her solo program, Carve, featuring new works for bassoon and electronics by composers Paula Matthusen, Sam Pluta, Peter V. Swendsen, and Kyle Bruckmann, that are performed alongside acoustic improvisations. In addition to Carve, Dana had the honor of collaborating with acclaimed composer and AACM member, George Lewis, on a new work titled, Seismologic, for bassoon and four-channel sound that she premiered in 2017.

Recent concert highlights include performances at the November Music Festival in the Netherlands, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in California, NYC’s Bohemian National Hall, National Sawdust and Roulette in Brooklyn, Amsterdam’s Splendor, San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento, and Constellation in Chicago, among others. In addition to numerous university residencies, she has been artist in residence at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Amsterdam’s STEIM, De Lindenberg Productiehuis, and the Omi International Arts Center. Her recordings as a bassoonist and improviser can be heard on Cantaloupe Music, Innova, New World, Ravello, RIOJA, Evil Rabbit, and the Oberlin Music record labels. Dana has also been heard on radio programs including NPR’s All Things Considered, Chicago Public Radio’s Relevant Tones and the BBC Radio’s Hear and Now.

Dana is currently the Director of Professional Development and Associate Professor of Contemporary Music and Improvisation at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She was the 2018 guest faculty artist at the SPLICE Institute, and taught for four summers at the Walden School Young Musicians Program where she can still be heard performing with the Walden School Players. Dana holds a M.M. in Bassoon Performance with academic honors from the New England Conservatory of Music and a M.M. in Improvisation from the Artez Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in the Netherlands. She lived in Amsterdam for three years as the recipient of a 2009-2011 HSP Huygens Fellowship and 2008-2009 J. William Fulbright Fellowship where she researched contemporary and improvised music.

Carve (without reed) by Dana Jessen

Dana Jessen’s debut solo album, Carve, features four new commissioned works for bassoon and electronics by composers Paula Matthusen, Sam Pluta, Peter V. Swendsen, and Kyle Bruckmann. Between each of these works are short acoustic improvisations that reflect an idea or technique from the commissioned works. Carve (without reed) is one of the featured improvisations.

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Hypothetical Islands (excerpt) by Yannis Kyriakides

Splinter Reeds live performance of Yannis Kyriakides’ work, Hypothetical Islands, for reed quintet and electronics. Splinter Reeds includes Bill Kalinkos (clarinet), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), David Wegehaupt (saxophone), Jeff Enderle (bass clarinet), and Dana Jessen (bassoon).

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Michael Gordon’s Rushes for seven bassoons

Rushes is an hour-long work for seven bassoons by Michael Gordon commissioned through the New Music Bassoon Fund, a consortium project created by Dana Jessen. The Rushes Ensemble includes bassoonists Jeffrey Lyman, Saxton Rose, Lynn Hileman, Michael Harley, Rachael Elliott, Dana Jessen and Maya Stone.

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NewMusicBox Articles

Articles November 21 2012 | By Dana Jessen
Commissioning Rushes

A large-scale work for the bassoon by a well-known composer would not only be a giant step for the bassoon community, but it would also create a greater awareness of...