Austin Wulliman: violin - performance - collaboration


Photo by  Karjaka Studios

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 through teaching, writing, and performances with the JACK Quartet.

He first forged his reputation in Chicago with the collective Ensemble Dal Niente, serving as the group’s Program Director, and winning the Kranichstein Music Prize (the grand prize for interpretation) at the Darmstadt Summer Course in 2012. With Dal Niente he has collaborated with composers such as Brian Ferneyhough and James Dillon as well as recording projects with the band Deerhoof in music of Marcos Balter, and a portrait CD of sonic adventurer Aaron Einbond. 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, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

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, Billy Childs, and Julien Labro (recording on Azica Records) and free improvisation (forthcoming release on Room 40 in collaboration with Australian experimental artist Chris Cobilis, produced by the legendary Steve Albini). Other recording projects with Spektral Quartet have included new works by Hans Thomalla and a wide sampling of young Chicago-based composers (on the Sono Luminus and Parlour Tapes+ labels) as well as a collection of “Mobile Miniatures” by over 40 American composers designed as cellular ringtones (such as David Lang, Nico Muhly, Shulamit Ran and George Lewis). 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.

In 2016, Austin began his work as violinist in the trail-blazing JACK Quartet. WIth JACK, Austin has worked with composers such as John Luther Adams, Chaya Czernowin, Georg Friedrich Haas, Tyshawn Sorey, and John Zorn as well as collaborating with performers such as Igor Levit, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and Marc-Andre Hamelin. With JACK, he has performed at such venues as the Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Carnegie Hall, the Lucerne Festival, Ojai Festival, Tanglewood Music Festival and the BBC Proms. Much more can be found at the JACK Quartet website.

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 teaching 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.