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Conni Ellisor’s credentials include degrees from the University of Denver  and the Julliard School, and success in virtually every facet of the music industry- as a violinist in string quartets and orchestras, as a top-call studio violinist, as an arranger and orchestrator, and as a composer whose works have been recorded by major record labels and broadcast nationwide by NPR.

Conni brings this wealth or real-world experience and wisdom to bear on the challenges faced by today’s young musicians and composers. She presents, among others, a master class entitled “Mozart Was A Gigger, Too” and has given lectures at the Congressional Caucus of the Arts, and at a number of schools including the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, the University of the South, and Middle Tennessee State University. She appeared at Composer-in-Residence for Northwestern Louisiana State University in April 2008. Her outreach experience also includes numerous appearances in conjunction with her duties as Composer-in-Residence (1998-2002) for Orchestra Nashville (formerly Nashville Chamber Orchestra).

Arvada West HS clinic pic

Working with students at her alma mater, Arvada West High School in Arvada, CO.

Conversations with Conni Ellisor- Lecture Offerings:

Mozart Was A Gigger, Too

Everybody that makes a living writing and playing music is a gigger of some sort. Mozart had to tailor his symphonies to suit the French (thus the Paris Symphonies), Vivaldi had to write according to the instrumental strengths of his all-girls school orchestra, Telemann was basically a church music director. Once, when asked what inspired him to write, Cole Porter answered “a phone call from the producer.” It’s romantic to think that composers finish oratorios and symphonies because they’re so inspired they can’t put down the pen, but the truth is, there’s usually a deadline involved. What makes it happen is discipline and craft and sheer tenacity- the talent and inspiration is a given. All composers need a day gig to support their habit- if we’re really lucky (and versatile) , it’s music. So it’s to our advantage to play our instruments well, be able to execute a variety of styles, have people skills, etc.  That’s just the real world, and it’s always been that way.

Art vs. Commerce

Who decides what art is? If you play on or write a piece that is being marketed to the general public, does that automatically mean it’s less valid? I’ve arrived at my own definition of art after a lot of contemplation (and perhaps justification). I think it’s what connects us with parts of ourselves forgotten- that which is bigger than ourselves. So who am I to say that to some people country music isn’t art? And what is my obligation when I play on a country album? Am I selling myself out? And if I feel cynical and judgmental while I’m doing it (which I do, sometimes) is it possible that I am betraying the true essence of art- that somewhere, someone’s life is going to  be changed by this music?

I maintain that music is music (though some clearly better than others) and that if Mozart’s music weren’t  commercial in his day, he wouldn’t have been successful. Having stood the test of time, it’s easy to elevate “classical” music to a higher level than most of our music today. But at the core, those composers were part of the “music industry” of their time, competing for a finite number of commissions and happy when the audience applauded and the critics praised. It’s interesting to think about what of today’s music will make future editions of Grout!


“Conducting the premiere of Conni Ellisor’s new work Diaspora was a great adventure! An accomplished musician and composer, Ms. Ellisor intimately understands the intricacies of successful and captivating orchestral composition. Diaspora is absolute proof that new music can be accessible, exciting and inspiring to musicians and audiences alike!”
Giancarlo Guerrero, Music Director, Nashville Symphony

“I cannot speak highly enough of Conni Ellisor. Her compositions are a fascinating mix of folk and commercial elements which also embrace traditional concert music.”
Paul Christopher, NCTM
Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Low Strings
Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Whether at an inner-city community center, or from the stage at a concert, Conni’s engaging style easily attracts audiences of all ages to connect to her vitality and passion.”
Paul Gambill, Music Director
Orchestra Nashville (formerly Nashville Chamber Orchestra)