Classical music…it’s stuffy, boring, and something that only old people enjoy, right? I beg to differ (and I’ll prove it to you)! While the term “classical” may be misleading, classical music is actually a very exciting, inspiring, and powerful musical genre. Millennial musicians are not only embracing the past, they are also shaping the future of classical music performance and putting a fresh twist on what it means to be a classical musician. As a fellow Millennial and modern classical musician, I am happy to shine a growing spotlight on a hand-selected list of young classical superstars.
• Jourdan Urbach – 21, violin
• Nicola Benedetti – 25, violin
• Alisa Weilerstein – 30, cello
• Nadia Sirota – 30, viola
• Gustavo Dudamel – 32, baton
• Lang Lang – 31, piano
• Hilary Hanh – 31, violin
• Cameron Carpenter – 32, organ
When talking about classical music, however – an era of music that emerged around 1750 – it’s difficult to keep history out of the conversation. Don’t worry though, I promise to keep it brief! The classical music era extends from the mid-18th to the early-19th centuries (c. 1750 – c. 1830). This era is often associated with the works of Beethoven and Mozart, two of the most well known and respected classical musicians and composers in the world.
Modern Classical Musicians
Fast-forward to the 21st century and classical music is still widely heard, appreciated, and performed. Millennial musicians are mastering the classical style, while infusing their personalities, passions, and interests into their performances. The first of eight musicians in the Millennial Classical Musicians line up is 21-year-old, American concert violinist Jourdan Urbach.
Jourdan Urbach was born in December of 1991. Just seven years later, Jourdan hit the stage, making his professional debut on the violin. For comparison, Mozart premiered around the age of five. Music critics delight in Jourdan’s “buttery smooth” sound and the brilliance and technical acuity of his playing. Recognized as a child prodigy, this young superstar has already become a Grammy-winning concert violinist. He has even had the rare opportunity to perform – twice – as a featured artist at Carnegie Hall, an internationally renowned concert hall in Manhattan.
The pressure to succeed is understandably intense in these high-profile performances. His strong love of music, however, and positive attitude helps to carry him through. He reflects on the performing experience and his mindset as a modern classical musician in a 2011 interview with Charles Osgood, “I get a huge rush out of performing,” he shares, “and I can tolerate the practice because I know it leads up to that.”
Jourdan Urbach performing his composition “Collision (Planetary)” a classical/hip-hop remix:
The Cherry On Top
Jourdan Urbach is not only a tremendously talented musician, he’s also passionately philanthropic and participates in what he calls “Responsible Music.” According to Jourdan, “music is designed to be heard, but it is also to be used to further the greater good.” In this spirit, he founded Concerts for a Cure (originally Children Helping Children) when he was just seven years old. Over the past 14 years, his charity has raised more than $5 million through classical music, benefiting children in New York hospitals and the international medical community. Jourdan’s musical and philanthropic passions play an important role in his service as an international representative of the United Nations’ Arts for Peace program that he promotes on his website, “As a Goodwill Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence for UN (Arts for Peace), Jourdan serves as a cultural link between the UN community and the artistic community in NY and abroad.”
Jourdan actively impacts the world through his music and dedication to society. As a modern classical music performer and composer, he is vibrant, successful, and clearly high in demand. I look forward to watching his music career and charitable efforts grow and evolve, affecting the hearts and minds of people around the world.
Claim to Fame: Grammy-winning concert violinist; Contemporary composer; Founder of Children Helping Children
As we move on to the second remarkable Millennial classical musician on the list, you’ll see how she impacts society through her music and advocacy efforts as well, and has risen to classical stardom with modern flair.
NICOLA BENEDETTI – The Silver Violinist
Introducing the ravishing, young classical violinist, Nicola Benedetti. This beautiful, Scotland native has already captured the hearts (and ears) of audiences throughout Great Britain and across the world. She will turn 26 in July.
Nicola’s musical journey began when she started violin lessons at the age of five. Approximately ten years later, she entered the Yehudi Menuhin School (YMS) in Surrey and studied with the acclaimed violin professor Natalia Boyarsky. After leaving YMS, she continued to develop her musical talent as a student of the Polish and Russian violinists, Maciej Rakowski and Pavel Vernikov, respectively. Her talents have been featured with professional symphonies and among prominent music festivals and events all over the world. And when she’s not touring, she enjoys playing regularly in her chamber trio with cellist (and also boyfriend of 10 years) Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk.
Nicola is also fiercely dedicated to music education and participates as a “Big Sister” and Board Member for Sistema Scotland. In recognition for her service to music and charity, she was appointed by the Queen of England to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours.
Since the launch of her career as a modern classical musician, Nicola has managed to accumulate a spectacular list of accomplishments:
- BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004, performing the unconventional Szymanowski Violin Concerto
- Recipient of the Classical BRIT Award for Young British Classic Performer in 2008
- Debuted at the 2010 BBC Proms
- Signed exclusively with Decca Classics in 2011
- Best Female Artist at the Classic Brits in 2012
- Listed as Classical “Best Female Artist” in iTunes Best of 2012
- Released a tremendously successful CD, The Silver Violin
Nicola Benedetti’s Italia on SoundCloud:
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Bringing Sexy Back to Classical Music
Nicola produces the warmest and most heartfelt violin tones. She plays the Gariel Stradivarius (c. 1717), which is considered to be one of the highest quality and most valuable violins in the world – it’s considered the Gucci of instruments. Her modern-day patron, bank executive Jonathan Moulds, purchased the Strad for her to play for a mere £10 million, or the equivalent of nearly $15.5 million today.
Although she is known for her performance of classical music, she is also unafraid to dive into a wide variety of repertoire. Her latest album The Silver Violin is Hollywood gold, bringing the iconic sounds of the silver screen to her Silver Violin. The enormous success of her CD led to The Silver Violin Tour, which took place this past March in nine venues across Scotland.
Claim to Fame: Best Female Classical Artist; plays the Gariel Stradivarius; Sistema Scotland – Big Sister and Board Member
Millennial musicians, such as violinists Nicola Benedetti and Jourdan Urbach, are taking the world’s stage by storm; challenging convention; and providing amazing classical music performances for growing audiences, excited listeners, and a variety of populations across the globe. Through music, modern classical musicians are conveying a message of passion and beauty, education and healing, and perhaps most of all, a message of encouragement and hope.
The next article in the Millennial Classical Musicians mini-series will feature a pioneering violist, and one of the greatest advocates for El Sistema, a revolutionary music education program originating in Venezuela; His weapon of choice – the baton.