Adam Jeffreys


Photo 1 by Matt Dine


Conseil des Arts de Montreal Collective Artists Grant, 2020; Honors Commencement Recital, Oberlin Conservatory, 2018


National Academy Orchestra of Canada, 2020; Lucerne Festival, 2020–21; Orchestre de la Francophonie, 2019; Orchestre Philharmonique et Chœur des Mélomanes (OPCM), 2018–20; Montreal Music Collective, 2018–20; Sinfonia de l’Ouest, 2018–20; Ojai Music Festival, 2017; Manchester Music Festival, 2016; Round Top Festival Institute, 2015; Aria International Summer Academy, 2014

What is your earliest memory of classical music?

I think that my earliest memory of classical music was hearing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto on the radio. I fell in love with the singing quality of the violin and had (and still have) a particular love of opera, specifically sopranos.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career?

After playing the string orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s 8th String Quartet, I discovered a passion for orchestral musicianship. I realized that I wanted to be both a chamber musician and orchestral musician, because of the unique perspective that came with playing both the original string quartet and the orchestral arrangement. Both versions are meaningful and moving, but have different strengths.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply?

Growing up in Red Hook, I have known about TŌN since high school. Joining a training orchestra program has been one of my career goals, and what sets TŌN apart from other programs is its dedication to community engagement and its unique relationship with academia.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century?

I think that diversity is a theme surrounding successful concerts and programs in the 21st Century. Concerts should present works from under-represented composers alongside repertoire from the standard cannon. It is important to focus on creating an expanded repertoire instead of just having one Amy Beach-focused recital at the end of a concert series featuring only the usual suspects. In addition to advocating older composers like Henriëtte Bosmans and George Walker, there are many contemporaries that deserve time in the spotlight, like Cris Derksen and Jesse Montgomery. It is important to have programs that include compositions from many  different time periods. Orchestra concerts should be a showcase of performance arts’ vibrancy, from new compositions and standard pieces to compositions from marginalized composers. 

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most?

 I connect most with contemporary composers from the late-20th Century and early-21st Century. Composers like Sofia Gubaidulina, Luciano Berio, Stravinsky, and Ligeti.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it?

Currently, my favorite piece is Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 1, Métamorphoses Nocturnes. I love the pacing, the raucous character, and the almost perfect balance between introducing new material and developing existing ideas. Ligeti takes an old concept, developing and revisiting thematic material, and places it in the 20th-century aesthetic. And because of this, I would say that there isn’t a dull moment, that every second is gripping. In addition, Ligeti employs a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor: mocking Viennese waltzes, creating a vaudeville type moment, and putting a Haydn-esque cadence amidst a turbulent series of notes.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician?

In 2017 I went to the Ojai Music Festival with the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble, in collaboration with the International Contemporary Ensemble. We were playing several pieces by Vijay Iyer, including a newly composed concerto for Jennifer Koh. The Ojai Music Festival is an incredible place full of many brilliant minds in the contemporary music world. It was amazing to be part of it and to perform for hundreds, if not thousands, of very committed contemporary music audiences in the Libbey Bowl. It’s not very often that you see completely full concert halls for contemporary-only concerts.

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories?

Absolutely! My glasses have fallen off of my face during solo performances twice. The second time was during my audition for McGill University. The good thing about something catastrophic like that happening is that you lose any sense of being nervous.

Favorite non-classical musician or band

It’s a tie between ABBA and Vasen, a contemporary Swedish folk band. They are two very different Swedish bands. If you had to ask me to choose one, I would probably have to choose ABBA. You can’t beat “The Winner Takes it All” and “Dancing Queen.” 

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I would most likely be involved with political science and governmental ethics.


What is your favorite place you’ve travelled to and why?

I visited Scotland and England in 2012, and loved both the rural towns and the cities of Newcastle and Edinburgh. However the most memorable thing that I did in the U.K. was visiting Hadrian’s Wall. I had never been around anything so old in my life, and it was the first time that I had seen something in person from the time of the Roman Empire.


Piece of advice for a young classical musician

Practicing is not about quantity, it is about quality. Practicing for shorter periods of time, but being mindful of how you spend that time is more helpful than practicing long hours for the sake of practicing.