Joel Smirnoff

The Juilliard School - New York

Joel Smirnoff, conductor and violinist, presently teaches on the faculty of the Juilliard School. He served as President of the Cleveland Institute of Music from 2008 until 2016. He is a native of New York City and former chair of the violin department at The Juilliard School. A member of the Juilliard String Quartet from 1986 until 2009, he served as the ensemble’s leader from 1997. The Quartet, founded in 1947, is a living American legend, having won four GRAMMY Awards.

Mr. Smirnoff attended the University of Chicago and The Juilliard School and was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for six years. Second Prize-winner in the International American Music Competition in 1983, he made his New York recital debut in 1985 at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall as part of the Emerging Artists series and at Town Hall as part of the Midtown Masters series. In 1997, he was featured violin soloist at Tanglewood in a concert dedicated to the memory of violinist Louis Krasner, performing the Berg Violin Concerto under the direction of Bernard Haitink. Mr. Smirnoff has participated in the world premiere of numerous contemporary works, many of which were composed for him. 

Mr. Smirnoff was Chair of the Violin Department at The Juilliard School from 1993 until 2008 and served as Head of String Studies at the Tanglewood Music Center during the late 1990s. He has served on the juries of the Naumburg, Indianapolis, Seoul, Harbin and Sendai Violin Competitions. He also pursues an active career as a conductor, both in the U.S. and abroad. In the summer of 2000, Mr. Smirnoff made his official American conducting debut with the San Francisco Symphony, conducting an all-Tchaikovsky program. In May 2004, he received rave reviews for his debut with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, replacing Peter Oundjian, who had fallen ill. Mr. Smirnoff conducts regularly in the United States, Europe and Asia with a wide-ranging repertoire. He has lead the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and toured with the Basel Sinfonietta and Charles Rosen as soloist in the Elliott Carter Piano Concerto. 


Mr. Smirnoff also plays jazz, performing frequently as improvising soloist with Tony Bennett. His improvised jazz violin solos were featured on the GRAMMY Award-winning CD Tony Bennett Sings Ellington Hot and Cool. He has also been guest soloist with Gunther Schuller and the American Jazz Orchestra, as well as the Billy Taylor Trio.

Mr. Smirnoff was born into an eminent New York musical family. His mother sang with the Jack Teagarden Band under the stage name of Judy Marshall and his father, Zelly Smirnoff, played in the NBC Symphony under Toscanini and was second violinist of the Stuyvesant String Quartet. 


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