Pavone, Jessica

Peter Gannushkin /

Peter Gannushkin /

Primary Scene: Brooklyn/New York

Jessica Pavone is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who started playing violin at age five and picked up viola, piano and bass guitar all before graduating high school. While her earliest training was primarily in classical music, after majoring in viola and graduating from a conservatory, she began exploring other avenues for creative musical expression. As noted by Steve Smith in the National Sawdust Log, “Jessica Pavone…has made a career of redefining the possibilities for her instrument.” She is a graduate of The Hartt School of Music where she received a Bachelors’s degree in Music Education in 1998 and earned a Master’s Degree in Music Composition from The Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College in 2007.

As both an instrumentalist and composer, she thematically explores tactile experience in her compositions and performances. This is most notable in her solo viola music, where she performs indeterminate pieces that stem from years of concentrated long tone practice, her interest in repetition, song form, sympathetic vibration, and the physicality of playing her somewhat larger-than-comfortable instrument. Pavone began composing for and performing with the J.Pavone String Ensemble (two violins and two violas) in 2017. The ensemble has presented new works at ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn, Firehouse12 in New Haven, and the Graham Foundation in Chicago. In 2019, Birdwatcher Records released their debut album, Brick and Mortar, to critical acclaim from publications such as The Wire, The New Yorker, and the San Francisco Classical Voice. Writing for Bandcamp Daily, Peter Margasak hailed Brick and Mortar as “the most assured, bracing work of Pavone’s career.”

Pavone has received grants and commissions from The American Music CenterNew Music USAMusic at the Anthology (MATA), The Jerome Foundation, The Tri-Centric FoundationExperiments in Opera, and was a composer in residence at Arts Letters and Numbers, and the UCross Foundation. She has premiered new work in venues in New York City such as Roulette Intermedium, Abrons Art Center, and The Kitchen.

As an instrumentalist, she has interpreted music by Elliott Sharp, William Parker, Glenn Branca, Henry Threadgill, Matana Roberts, Matthew Welch, Aaron Siegel, and Tyondai Braxton. From 2005 to 2012, Pavone toured regularly with Anthony Braxton’s Sextet and 12+1tet and appears on almost a dozen of his recent recordings.

As a composer, she has released albums of her own on Tzadik, Taiga Records, Thirsty Ear, Relative Pitch, Birdwatcher and Skirl Records as well as four collaborative duo recordings with guitarist, Mary Halvorson. In 2011, Pavone was featured in NPR’s “The Mix: 100 Composers Under 40? and since The Wire magazine has praised her “ability to transform a naked tonal gesture into something special,” and The New York Times described her music as “distinct and beguiling…its core is steely, and its execution clear.”

Cisco BradleyPavone, Jessica