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Meet Academy Alumna Andrea Jarrett

Andrea Jarrett, violin  |  Academy graduating class of 2009

Where are they now?  In celebration of the Academy's 10th year, MIC took time to catch up with alumni of the program.


Named a 2009 Presidential Scholar in the Arts by the U.S. Department of Education, violinist Andrea Jarrett received her Master of Music degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in May 2015. While obtaining her degree, she was a student of Kathleen Winkler and served as concertmaster of both the chamber and symphony orchestras. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School in 2013, where she studied with David Chan. She joined the second violin section of the St. Louis Symphony in September 2015.

Prior to her appointment with the symphony, she participated in the 2013 New York String Orchestra Seminar under the direction of Jaime Laredo. While attending Juilliard, she gave the world premiere of composer Neil Rolnick’s concerto for violin and electronics in November 2012, titled “Gardening at Gropius House.” In the same year, she served as concertmaster of the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra. Another highlight during her undergraduate years was her performance of the Mendelssohn Octet in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Meet the Music! Concert Series. She was a member of the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra in 2009, with concerts in Carnegie Hall under the baton of Michael Tilson-Thomas. A native midwesterner, she has performed as a soloist with the Dearborn, Birmingham-Bloomfield, Toledo, and Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestras.

During her high school years, she was a member of the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy program, where she studied with Almita and Roland Vamos. She received the Silver Award in Music/Violin from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts in January 2009. Also an active chamber musician, she was a member of Quartet Polaris, Gold Medal Winners of the 2008 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Junior Division. She performed with Quartet Polaris on NPR’s From the Top. The quartet also performed in The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Weill Hall as part of an East Coast tour through the Music Institute of Chicago.

Her summer studies have brought her to many corners of the world. She attended the Taos School of Music in 2013, where she worked closely with the Borromeo and Brentano String Quartets to perform Beethoven’s entire quartet cycle. In 2012, she traveled to Japan to attend the Pacific Music Festival, where she served as concertmaster under Fabio Luisi. Other festivals include Music Academy of the West, Spoleto Festival, Astona International Academy (Switzerland), Heifetz International Music Institute, and Interlochen Arts Camp.

What was most beneficial about studying with Mr. and Mrs. Vamos and your time at the Academy?

The most important thing I learned from studying with Mr. and Mrs. Vamos was that nothing I wanted in my violin career would come easily. Before I began studying with them, I was living in a “bubble” (in a small town outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan) where I was basically the only kid I knew pursuing violin seriously. I was doing fine, but I wasn't aware of just how competitive the field is. At my very first lesson with Mrs. Vamos, she asked me how much I practiced each day. I said about an hour or two. Her response was simple, but enormously effective: “You are doing a disservice to yourself and your potential if you aren’t practicing five or six hours a day. You’re too good not to.” She was simultaneously telling me she believed in me, but that I had to work very hard. I trusted her instantly. She’s Almita Vamos—how could you not? Mrs. Vamos truly catapulted my career, my discipline, and my love for music. I don’t think I would have been accepted into a conservatory for college had I not studied with her (and Mr. Vamos, who boosted my technique!).

I began studying at the Academy in my second year of studying with the Vamoses. I was thrown in with the best of the best in musicians of similar age to me. I got to work in a string quartet coached by Hans Jensen. I talked, became friends, and made lasting connections with the most talented young musicians I’ll know. As I said before, being around the other Academy students helped me understand the discipline necessary to have a fulfilling career in music.

What were some highlights during your time at the Academy?

The biggest highlight of my time at the Academy was when my aforementioned quartet won the Junior Division of the Fischoff Competition (the other members of the quartet were Gabe Cabezas, Matt Lipman, and Vince Meklis). Actually, the best part of that was all three medal winners that year came from the Academy. It was a profound display of how talented Academy students are and what brilliant guidance they received from the faculty. I remember having an unstoppable smile on my face because we had won, but also because my Academy friends were also on stage celebrating their success. It was a wonderful moment.

How do you think the Academy prepared you for conservatory training?

I think the Academy prepared me for conservatory training simply by surrounding me with the most talented students in my age range. Obviously, my lessons with Mrs. Vamos and personal practicing got me to the technical and musical level necessary for conservatory life, but being around the students gave me an additional “inner drive” to succeed. I remember very vividly when my graduating class began receiving acceptance letters from their top choices in colleges—myself included. Notice how I said “acceptance letters.” Everyone was accepted where they wanted to go, and it’s because we all put in the “blood, sweat and tears” necessary to get the healthily stuffed envelopes in the mail.

I went to The Juilliard School, where I studied with David Chan. He is the concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. You could say I was a bit star-struck! He is a wonderful teacher and person in addition to a brilliant violinist. Other Academy alumni who later joined me at Juilliard were Matt Lipman, Sophia Cho, and Stephanie Block. A few more came for their master’s degrees, but I headed down to Texas for my master’s. I attended the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where I studied with Kathleen Winkler. I graduated this past May.

What is your current position?

My current position is Fourth Chair, Second Violin in the St. Louis Symphony. It is a non-rotating chair, which is exciting as I sit close to the front every week. I frequently sit Assistant Principal on the front stand (as the ladies in front of me have vacation days/weeks, etc.) and got to sit Principal for the first time last week. It’s a brilliant orchestra, and the members are like family. I say this having joined just six months ago (I won the position last April and started in September), but it's true—you will see lots of hugging, smiling, and general happiness on stage at concerts here in St. Louis. And everyone is ridiculously talented at their instruments. It’s so inspiring. We recently returned from a tour in California, where we tackled two difficult programs. The first was Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto (which the orchestra recorded last year, before I was a member). The second was a rarely performed, yet now-popular work by Messiaen entitled “Des Canyons Aux Etoiles...” (“From the Canyons to the Stars...”). It is a 12-movement, 95-minute masterpiece in celebration of America’s National Parks and natural wonders, such as Zion Park and Bryce Canyon. Both programs were performed effortlessly and with strong musical conviction. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a talented ensemble.

Do you have thoughts about where you see yourself in five years?

Honestly, it might be right here. For the last 10 years, maybe more, I have been so focused on where my “next step” would be. In high school, it was all about getting into a good college. During college, it was about going to the very best summer festivals and having great recitals/juries. Then, it was about getting into another school for my master’s degree. And when I started the master’s degree, I hit the ground running to win an orchestra job. It’s been my dream for a long time to play in a top-U.S. orchestra. It was a bigger dream than college, having a good recital, or crossing summer festivals off my list. Now that I’m here, I think I’d like to stay for a while. It’s been a long, difficult, and extremely fulfilling journey to this point, and I want to enjoy the moment.


Read more Academy alumni profiles here >>

Reverón Piano Trio

Friday, February 17 at 7:30 pm Venezuelan virtuosos return to Nichols Concert Hall to feature world and Chicago premiere performances not to be missed >>