American violinist/violist Jacob Clewell stands in the vanguard of musicians of his generation. Gold Medalist of the 2017 Vancouver International Music Competition, he leads a multifaceted career as a soloist, recitalist, chamber player, and educator.
Recent activities include solo and chamber performances at the Scotia Festival, Green Lake Chamber Music Festival, Le Domaine Forget, Lake District Summer Music, Northern Lights Festival de Febrero in Ajijic, Mexico, and Festival Pablo Casals in Prades, France. Jacob has appeared alongside members of the Escher, Emerson, Endellion, Cypress, and Penderecki quartets, Berlin Philharmonic, Seattle and Toronto symphonies, Manhattan Chamber Players, Gryphon Trio, and pianists Pedja Muzijevic and Andrew Armstrong. In May 2018 he gave his first solo performance in Chicago’s Symphony Center, performing on the VIMC winner’s tour with works by Henri Vieuxtemps. In his home base of Toronto, he has appeared in the contemporary music festival 21C, and recorded Brahms' 2 Gesänge for the Canadian Broadcasting Company with Wallis Giunta and Steven Philcox. Jacob also collaborates with painter Karen Mosbacher on Paint:Music, a project focusing on the audio/visual manifestations of synesthesia.
Together with his duo partner, pianist Sasha Bult-Ito (The Ezra Duo), he has appeared coast to coast in Canada and across the United States. In November 2017 they appeared in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in New York, and in April 2018 performed as guests at a G7 Summit event held at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In 2019 Ezra toured with their "Women in Music" and “Art of the Duo” programs, and in the midst of the 2020 lockdowns appeared in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, performing in a celebration of composer Patricia Morehead’s 80th birthday. Ezra began traveling again in 2022 with “Colorfully Contemporary”, a program highlighting relatable works by living composers. They have participated in outreach events at Toronto's Baycrest Hospital and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, as well as appeared on the Toronto Public Library's mid-day "Orchardviewers" series. Ezra is an ensemble-in-residence for the
Emerald Coast Chamber Music Festival and Institute in Niceville, Florida, where Jacob and Sasha are co-artistic directors and Artist Faculty alongside their colleagues Nicholas Hatt and Jordan Galvarino in the Velox Quartett.
Upcoming season highlights include performances with the Mosbacher Salon Collective, a guest appearance with the Toronto-based Odin Quartet, and concerts with Ezra and Velox in Canada and the United States. Ezra will also release their first album in 2024, titled “A Collection of Short Stories”, and continue hosting Ezra Electrified!, a livestreamed recital series performed on electric instruments. For the 2023-2024 season, Jacob has joined Canada’s premier chamber orchestra Sinfonia Toronto as a violist, the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra as principal second violin and member of their NextGen program, and will make an appearance as guest principal violist with the Kingston Symphony.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jacob spent the majority of his childhood in Oklahoma, playing in local and school orchestras. He holds degrees from the Cornish College of the Arts, Stony Brook University, and The Glenn Gould School, where he studied with Mara Gearman, Nicholas Cords, Lawrence Dutton, and Steven Dann, and spent two years of intensive study under the Emerson String Quartet. He has undertaken additional study in Europe with Yuko Inoue, Roger Chase, and Nobuko Imai. Jacob completed his Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Toronto under the guidance of Masumi Per Rostad and Annalee Patipatanakoon, where he was a teaching assistant in violin, viola, and chamber music. His doctoral research corroborated existing evidence confirming the identity of the 19-century French violist Casimir Ney, displays the pedagogical merit of adding Ney’s viciously difficult 24 Preludes for Solo Viola into existing teaching materials for viola, and offers a style guide to Romantic repertoire through analysis and performance instruction of all twenty-four works.
Jacob draws influence from many fields, citing William Primrose, Itzhak Perlman, Martha Argerich, Boris Kroyt, My Chemical Romance, Hayao Miyazaki, and Satoru Iwata among his greatest inspirations. Away from the viola he enjoys tabletop games, soccer, tennis, and brewing specialty coffee, and can often be found transcribing rock and video game music for Ezra.