Jury Member, Violin Section
Joel Smirnoff, conductor, violinist and pedagogue, presently teaches violin and chamber music on the faculty of the Juilliard School. He served as President of the Cleveland Institute of Music from 2008 until 2016. A member of the Juilliard String Quartet from 1986 until 2009, he served as the ensemble’s leader from 1997. In 2011, Mr. Smirnoff received both the Lifetime Grammy Award for his recorded work with the Juilliard String Quartet and the Alumni Professional Achievement Award from the University of Chicago, his Alma Mater.
Mr. Smirnoff pursues an active career as orchestral 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. Guest conducting engagements in the U.S. have included the Amarillo Symphony, Chicago Philharmonic, Columbus Symphony, Hartford Symphony, Juilliard Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Napa Valley Symphony, New World Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Texas Music Festival Orchestra, and others. In Europe, he has led the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and the Basel Sinfonietta; in Japan, the Saito Kinen Festival (Matsumoto); and in China, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra.
A native of New York City, Mr. Smirnoff attended the University of Chicago and The Juilliard School. Second Prize-winner in the International American Music Competition in 1983 in Carnegie Hall, 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.
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.
Born into an eminent New York musical family, Mr. Smirnoff’s 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.