Tristen Jarvis


Hometown: Colonie, NY

Alma maters: Ithaca College, B.M., ’18; Cleveland Institute of Music, M.M., ’20

Instagram: @tristen_jarvis_music

Photos by Matt Dine


Awards/competitions: First Prize, 2014 Anthony R. Stefan Scholarship Competition

Appearances: Wabass Institute, 2020; Suburban Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland, 2019; Grassroots Festival Orchestra, Ithaca, 2019; Mansfield Symphony Orchestra, 2019; Vermont Symphony Orchestra, 2019; Orford Academy, 2017; Domaine Forget Festival, 2015–17; National Youth Orchestra of the USA, 2014

What is your earliest memory of classical music? When I was a toddler my grandparents would take me on long car trips and play the soundtrack to Les Miserables or some Irish/Italian tenor CDs. Though it may not have been music from the times of Classical composers, it still featured Classical music elements like lush orchestral sounds, sophisticated arrangements, dynamics & drama, and fantastic singing/vocal styles.  

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? I remember being about 13 years old when I knew I wanted to be a professional musician. That was when I started getting this completely magical feeling every time I touched an instrument. I lost interest in most other things in my life and focused completely on school orchestra, taking private lessons, and jamming with my friends down in the basement to Metallica, Nirvana, and Green Day. It was as visceral and obvious for me then as it is now. 

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? As I started my second year of grad school, I was looking for jobs and orchestral fellowship programs to apply for post-graduation when a colleague suggested I check out TŌN. After researching the program, I couldn’t believe it was only an hour away from the capital region of NY where I grew up. The Hudson Valley is a beautiful and inspiring place, which made me excited to think about working and growing for a few years in a great orchestral/academic environment so close to home.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? I love the traditional orchestral experience where you sit in silence, dress nice, and the orchestra is super formal in attire and presentation. I also love seeing classical music pulled out of the concert hall and shoved into a pub or at the mall. I love being able to live-stream famous orchestras instead of being required to see them in person. I love seeing Beethoven performed in a t-shirt. I love when the performers speak from the stage to the audience. I love orchestra concerts that feature works by women and people of color. The more we can humanize the orchestra concert and make it more relatable to the average human being, the better. The more we can invite diversity among the audience and performers on stage, the better. The more we can act as community leaders in the name of service, inclusion, and charity, the better. The more we can embrace technology and collaboration, the better. All these things could shape a 21st-century orchestra experience beyond all traditional imaginations of acoustic music consumption. Great examples already exist—look at the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. Look at what Metallica has done by joining forces with the San Francisco Symphony. Look at the National Symphony performances with hip-hop artists like Nas and Kendrick Lamar. Look at the Metropole Orkest championing programs of black music(s) and popular music. Orchestra concerts in the 21st century can look like ANYTHING we want!

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? “Prsten” by Jiří Slavík off the album Mateřština (Mother Tongue). It’s the single most beautiful piece of music I have ever been lucky enough to hear. “Prsten” most closely translates in English to “ring,” as in a ring given from two people to each other as a gesture of love. This track quivers, hushes, cries, smiles, and absolutely roars; it’s so moving. A mentor of mine first showed me this track, making it that much more sentimental.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? My favorite experience as a musician has been performing for dementia & hospice patients. I witnessed the reality that music can be used as medicine in more profound ways than I ever thought possible. It taught me that artists are really paramedics of the soul. You never know what someone is going through when they are listening to you, and your music may be the medicine they need at that moment. 

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Drink more water!

Favorite non-classical artist/band? Doctors Who Smoke

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Clarinet 

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Play music because you love it, not because you want to be better than another person. Remember that you are unique and there is a place for you. Identify your goals and come up with plans to attain them. Never feel limited to play anything—there is SO much music out there that it really doesn’t make sense to only play one kind.