Artists: Jessica Hung Calligan

Like Laurana, Good English, and several other artists that inspired this project: Jessica was someone whom I first encountered at the Ballet Barre fundraiser event where she played a folk piece with her bow strung around her violin: 

Obviously, this was more than a little intriguing, so when I decided to do this series she made the list pretty quick. Although it wasn't until later that I found out that she was not just an amazing violinist: but the concertmaster for the Dayton Philharmonic. 

Which reminds me of another beautiful thing about our city: where else could you email the concertmaster for the local orchestra, ask her to be interviewed, ask permission to take photographs at a performance, and even get a reply; let alone a 'yes'. 

 Jessica, like so many others, was excited to be a part of the project. Because of copyright laws and so forth photographs are normally prohibited at Philharmonic concerts: but Jessica was amazingly gracious and coordinated with the Production Manager in order to get permission for me to take pictures at one of her solo performances at the Dayton Art Institute where she played some solo pieces of her own selection. 

Jessica Hung Calligan

"So, I'm the concertmaster of the Dayton Philharmonic: which really just means like 'lead' violinist or first chair violinist. I guess my job there entails leading the first violin section: but it's also being a sort of bridge between the conductor and the rest of the orchestra. So if he's asking for a certain type of sound I try to translate that technically and so on. There's also a lot of solo work, which is a fun balance between blending in and getting to do my own thing so to speak." 

Jessica and I met at a local starbucks, where she told me about her job and her life as a musician. 

I was really young when I started, so I really don't remember too much honestly [Laughing] I started with piano and liked that a lot. I had kinda a stage mom (In a good way!) she was very dedicated, had me go to lessons and youth orchestra and stuff like that. So I started with piano and then violin a few years later: it was really more of an expressive instrument for me, so that really quickly became my main instrument from about age nine or so. It was almost my only extracurricular: I did other things but it was mostly violin and orchestra. 

I grew up in Chicago area and there are a lot of opportunities there. I was involved in whats called "the civic orchestra" there, which is basically a training orchestra related to the Chicago symphony: so like we got to use their hall and stuff like that. It was basically this intense training group where we had access to all these major orchestra resources. I was in high school and it was mostly a college age group. That was really where I decided I wanted to do this professionally. 

I learned a lot in the Civic Orchestra, it had a seat rotation so I really learned the value of not just being in a leadership position but also of being in the back because you're still playing a really important role. I decided there that I definitely wanted to go to school for music: so I started at Northwestern with a major of Violin Performance. I liked Northwestern a lot, I liked my teacher a lot there: I had been studying with him before I went but it came to a point where I just wasn't learning as much as I could because I had been with him for so long. 

So I decided to transfer to the Cleveland institute of music, mainly because they had some amazing teachers there. The violin instructor is the concert master for the Cleveland Orchestra. When I got into his studio it was a very good match. He had a different way of teaching than my instructor at Northwestern, which really helped expand my style and develop a balance between technicality and expressiveness. 

I really learned the value of not just being in a leadership position but also of being in the back: because you’re still playing a really important role.

I stayed there through the rest of undergrad. Then during my graduate I was taking auditions and I happened to get a job here in the Dayton Philharmonic, so I jumped on that. I remember my teacher in Cleveland had what he called a "concertmaster academy" where he would pick one student a year to shadow him, and i was interested in applying for it: so when I got this job I was concerned that I may be missing on some crucial skills but he was so encouraging, like: "no! you're just going to learn everything on the job" [Laughing]. 

I've been with the Dayton Philharmonic for seven years, and i've always been impressed with the unity that Dayton has to offer. So, for example, we're one of the only cities that has a real connection between their opera, performing arts, and orchestra. Dayton has a very tightly knitted community: It almost has the feel of a small town but with a lot of the amenities of a city. It's been a great city to be involved with.

Jessica Calligan Currently Lives and Works in the Dayton, OH area as the concertmaster for the Dayton Philharmonic. She has studied violin performance at the Cleveland Institute of music and Northwestern and has participated in a variety of performance groups in the Chicago area and beyond. Her performances with the Dayton Philharmonic can be found here.