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The Interlochen Collection: Jorja Fleezanis

Violinist Jorja Fleezanis
Violinist Jorja Fleezanis

The groundbreaking violinist's remarkable career began and ended at Interlochen Center for the Arts

Violinist Jorja Fleezanis was born in Detroit, and as a teenager in the 1960s, she attended Interlochen Arts Camp and Academy.

Jorja Fleezanis boards a bus holding her violin
Interlochen Arts Academy
Jorja Fleezanis and her violin board a bus bound from Interlochen Arts Academy to Grand Rapids during the 1967-68 school year

When Fleezanis became the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra in 1989, she was only the second woman ever to hold that role in an American orchestra.

She served as the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra for two decades, making her the longest-tenured concertmaster in the orchestra's history.

Many composers wrote pieces of music specifically for Fleezanis during her time with Minnesota.

John Adams and John Tavener both composed violin concertos for her, and Stefan Wolpe wrote a violin sonata.

The Schubert Club also commissioned the chamber piece "Brilliant Sky, Infinite Sky" from composer Aaron Jay Kernis for Fleezanis.

Following her departure from the Minnesota Orchestra in 2009, she joined the faculty of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

She also served as a Valade Concertmaster at Interlochen Arts Camp several times in the last two decades.

In 2021, Fleezanis was named Visiting Faculty for Creative Orchestral Studies at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Jorja Fleezanis died unexpectedly in Sept. 2022. She was 70 years old.

Her legacy lives on through her students and colleagues, as well as through the Michael Steinberg and Jorja Fleezanis Fund.

Fleezanis was married to music critic Michael Steinberg, who died in 2009. She established the Fund in his memory to award an annual commission to an emerging composer.

Music heard in this episode

Gustav Mahler, Symphony no. 5 (selections)
Thor Johnson conducting the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra
May 1967

Richard Strauss, Interludes from "Die Frau ohne Schatten"
Eiji Oue conducting the Minnesota Orchestra
Jorja Fleezanis, concertmaster
Reference Recordings

Antonin Dvorak, Romance
Jorja Fleezanis, violin and Karl Paulnack, piano
2011 Interlochen Arts Camp performance

The archival recordings heard on this program are available thanks in part to The Association for Recorded Sound Collections' Classical Music Preservation Grant, generous support from our listeners, and the Hamer D. and Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation.

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.