Austin Wulliman: violin - performance - collaboration - instruction
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
Praised as a “gifted, adventuresome violinist” by the Chicago Tribune and as a “remarkable, unbelievable violinist/violist extraordinaire” by the syndicated radio program Relevant Tones, Austin Wulliman has gained critical and audience attention through his “wide technical range and interpretive daring” (New Music Box) as a soloist and chamber musician. Through in-depth collaboration with performers and composers working in a panoply of aesthetic realms, Austin searches daily for the violin’s voice in today’s musical world.
As violinist in the JACK Quartet, Austin has played in such renowned venues as Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Elbphilharmonie, Carnegie Hall, and the Wiener Konzerthaus, and featured on such festivals as Tanglewood, Ojai, Spoleto, Lucerne, and Foro Internacional de Musica in Mexico City. Work with JACK has included premieres by John Luther Adams, Philip Glass, Georg Friedrich Haas, Clara Iannotta, Tyshawn Sorey and John Zorn, as well as collaborations with the likes of Chaya Czernowin, Helmut Lachenmann, George Lewis, and Julia Wolfe. He has received awards from Musical America (“2019 Ensemble of the Year” JACK Quartet), University of Michigan’s “Emerging Artist Award”, and the Darmstadt Ferienkurse Kranichstein Prize (with Ensemble Dal Niente, 2012), and was presented with Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2019. With JACK he has performed with such luminaries as Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Marc-André Hamelin, Igor Levit, and Sō Percussion.
Equally in demand as an educator, Austin serves on faculty at the Mannes School of Music, where JACK is Quartet in Residence. Austin teaches a malleable violin technique in the service of a wide variety of musical goals, from virtuosic solo repertoire, to improvisation, and the refined set of tools needed to be a chamber music in today’s musical climate. He has taught violin and musicianship on faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Lucerne Festival Academy, and New Music on the Point in Vermont. Additionally, he has given guest instruction and presentations at such institutions as the Curtis Institute, Juilliard School, Northwestern University, and yearly visits to the University of Iowa.
He first forged his reputation in Chicago with the collective Ensemble Dal Niente, serving as the group’s Program Director and helping build its artist-driven culture of which he is still a member. With Dal Niente he has collaborated with composers such as Brian Ferneyhough and completed recording projects with the band Deerhoof in music of Marcos Balter. Austin has performed with Dal Niente at such venues as Harvard University and Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago. As an ensemble player, Austin has also been a guest artist with groups such as Eighth Blackbird, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNow Ensemble, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and has led the Lucerne Festival Academy’s Orchestra as concertmaster under the baton of Heinz Holliger and Matthias Pintscher.
As soloist, he has performed Kaija Saariaho’s concerto “Graal Theatre” with the Aspen Festival and Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensembles, as well as collaborating with the composer on the American Premiere of her “Calices” for violin and piano. He has also premiered violin concerti by Chris Fisher-Lochhead and Kirsten Broberg, as well as collaborating closely on solo pieces by composers Augusta Read Thomas and Lee Hyla, two essential mentoring voices in his early years in Chicago. His debut solo release, “Diligence Is to Magic as Progress Is to Flight” was released in 2014. The album is a concert-length collaboration with the composer-improviser Katherine Young, using 4 scordatura and prepared violins and a viola in conversation with 8-channel electronics and a chamber orchestra. Wulliman worked closely with Young from the creation of materials to the completion of the work, including traditional notation and improvised material.
Austin was also a founding member of Spektral Quartet, serving as Ensemble in Residence (as well as Adjunct Instructor of Violin) at the University of Chicago from 2011-2016. Exploring both the classical string quartet repertoire beginning with Haydn and organizing a robust commissioning program, he also explored contemporary jazz styles with artists such as Miguel Zenon and Billy Childs. With Spektral Quartet, he has performed on series such as the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor and BargeMusic as well as performing educational residencies at the New World Symphony and Stanford University.
Austin received his Bachelor’s Degree summa cum laude from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Aaron Berofsky. He was an endowed scholar and assistant to Blair Milton at Northwestern University, where he earned his M.Mus. Further studies took Austin to the Lucerne Festival Academy (under the baton of Pierre Boulez) and the Aspen Music Festival Fellowship in Contemporary Music, where he also studied privately with Paul Kantor.