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Ellen McSweeney


Chicago , IL      

ELLEN MCSWEENEY is a Chicago-based artist whose work traverses classical music, new music, songwriting, theater, and literature. Recently honored as one of Musical America’s 30 Professionals of the Year, she is the founding violinist of Chicago Q Ensemble, violinist of the International Chamber Artists, and an annual guest of the Gesher Chamber Music Festival.

In addition to her work as a violinist, Ellen is a writer, singer and songwriter. She recently released her debut solo album, The Wrong Idea, and performed its music at ThreeWalls Gallery and Uncommon Ground DevonAs a member of the cast of Holcombe Waller's groundbreaking show Wayfindersshe has toured to On The Boards Seattle, the MCA Chicago, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Ellen was also recently commissioned by Portland-based AnyWhen Ensemble to write and perform a prose text with the group.

A dynamic interpreter of contemporary music, Ellen regularly gives world premiere performances with Chicago Q Ensemble. She is a frequent guest artist with Fonema Consort, including on their recent album, Pasos en un Otra Calle, which earned a Best of 2014 nod from the Chicago Reader. Other chamber appearances include ensemble dal niente, Access Contemporary Music, and Singers on New Ground. As an improviser, she has performed on the Links Hall Collision Theory series and the City of Chicago’s Juicebox series.

Ellen holds an M.M. from DePaul University and a B.M. from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, where she earned a second major in creative writing. Before coming to Chicago, she lived in East Africa, serving on the faculty of the Umoja Arts Centre in Arusha, Tanzania. She is now on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago.


Articles by Ellen McSweeney:

Articles September 11 2015 | By Ellen McSweeney
Build the Playground: Carolyn O’Brien on composing through depression

Composer Carolyn O'Brien calls on her ingenuity and strength to create through, and with, severe depression. Read her on the importance of formal structure, a sense of play, and a...

Articles September 10 2015 | By Ellen McSweeney
The Best and Worst Thing: A conversation with Keeril Makan and Daniel Felsenfeld

Two composers sit down and talk about depression, PTSD, and how social media can increase isolation.

Articles September 8 2015 | By Ellen McSweeney
Productivity, Pressure, and the Power of Listening: Marcos Balter

In the first installment of our first-person series on music & mental health, Marcos Balter opens up about anxiety, composition deadlines, and each person's singular path towards happiness.

Articles September 7 2015 | By Ellen McSweeney
This Week: Musical Creativity and Mental Health

A series of interviews and essays on depression, anxiety, and making music.

Headlines July 7 2015 | By Ellen McSweeney
Wit and Wisdom: Musicians On Being

When a journalist like Tippett can interview anyone in the world, which musicians does she choose? And what does this tell us about musicians’ perceived impact in the wider world?

Headlines January 20 2015 | By Ellen McSweeney
Chicago: The Spektral Quartet goes to pieces (and rots)

I can’t tell if the Spektral Quartet is getting bigger or smaller. At the quartet’s Saturday night concert, "Snowpocalypse Antidote," I had the opportunity to reflect on “miniaturization” and the...

Listen November 25 2014 | By Ellen McSweeney
Poultry Jam: A Chicago Thanksgiving Playlist

Ah, Thanksgiving: a holiday as rich in calories as it is in cultural significance. What’s the proper soundtrack for a day that means so many different things? Why not canvas...

Headlines October 22 2014 | By Ellen McSweeney
Chicago: A scavenger hunt of world premieres

It was Open House Chicago this weekend. Open House is, apparently, a worldwide celebratory architectural free-for-all phenomenon that started in London. But I've only ever experienced it in Chicago. Here,...

Headlines October 10 2014 | By Ellen McSweeney
Chicago: The Unbearable Intimacy of Wandelweiser

I asked my friend and colleague Andrew Tham to join me in attempting to create a new kind of concert review: one that embraced, rather than attempted to deny, our...