Violinist Elizabeth Phelps, whose playing has been described as “vigorous and vivacious” with “impressive technique and interpretive sensibility” (CVNC), leads a diverse musical career. Her repertoire spans across centuries and genres, from period-instrument performances of the early baroque to contemporary works and collaborations with singer-songwriters. Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Elizabeth began violin just shy of her fourth birthday at the Bethwood Suzuki School in Bethany, CT with Lisa Barca-Hall.
Elizabeth was a fellow in the New World Symphony from 2009 to 2013, working with a myriad of conductors and musicians. Among the highlights of her fellowship include playing in masterclasses for Jorja Fleezanis, Jordi Savall, and joining Paula Robison for a performance Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire as well as Christian Tetzlaff for Brahms’ Viola Quintet in G Major. In the summer of 2010, Ms. Phelps attended the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland where she worked with members of Ensemble Intercontemperain and the late Pierre Boulez.
Following her fellowship with New World, Ms. Phelps spent four years as Principal Second Violin of the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh. She soloed frequently with the orchestra (including, notably, a performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 she performed on a piccolo violino) and performed numerous recitals and chamber music throughout the state. In the summer of 2014, she joined the faculty of the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC where she loves to teach, coach chamber music, and play in the first violin section of the faculty orchestra. she joined the faculty of the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC where she loves teaching, coaching chamber music, and playing in the first violin section of the faculty orchestra. Other highlights from her time in North Carolina include performing with composer and singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, collaborating with dancers from Black Irish for a performance of Caroline Shaw’s quartet “Entr’acte” at Kings Barcade in Raleigh, as well as both recording and performing with Kaira Ba, a North Carolina based band featuring renowned kora player Diali Cissokho.
Baroque music was always such a keen interest for Elizabeth that she decided to immerse herself in historical performance, attending workshops held by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto, the American Bach Soloists in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Early Music Festival. Most recently, she attended Enrico Onofri’s annual masterclass at the San Leo Festival in Italy. In August of 2017, she joined harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell for a recital at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and now regularly performs with Apollo’s Fire in Cleveland, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and Pacific Musicworks in Seattle.
Ms. Phelps received her bachelor and master degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music. While there, she was actively involved with the school’s New Music Ensemble, working closely with the composition students. In 2008 at the end of her studies, she joined forces with those composers along with other like-minded musicians to form the FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, a collective dedicated to performing works that connect contemporary chamber music with popular culture. They performed in a new, unique space for each performance, which inspired Elizabeth to seek out more accessible venues for performance when she moved to Miami Beach. With her colleagues in the New World Symphony, she started “Impromptu:”, a free, monthly chamber series at Art Center South Florida on the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in Miami Beach.
From 2005-2010, Elizabeth played in the Canton Symphony, serving as Acting Principal Second Violin for the last season. Other ensembles she has played with include the Seattle Symphony, Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Des Moines Metro Opera Orchestra, and the Artosphere Festival Orchestra.
Elizabeth is fortunate to have studied with Professor Paul Kantor, Stephen Rose of the Cleveland Orchestra, Amy Goodman, and Wendy Sharp. She is also grateful to Elizabeth Blumenstock, Elizabeth Field, Jeannette Sorrell, Julia Wedman, and David Wilson for aiding and abetting her baroque journey. Her modern violin is an Italian instrument by Pietro Gallinotti finished in 1949 and her baroque violin is by Seattle-based violin maker David van Zandt from 1991.
Ms. Phelps resides in Seattle with her partner, Matthew Decker, percussionist and timpanist with the Seattle Symphony. In addition to her historical and musical interests, she loves to learn about educational philosophy and brain development. She also enjoys cartoons, eating new food, and tending to her houseplants.