Jennifer Ellis Harp Hero

Harpist Jennifer R. Ellis is a dynamic contemporary performer who thoroughly enjoys defying traditional expectations about harp playing. It is in that spirit that she became the first harpist ever named a One Beat fellow–a cultural diplomacy program of the U.S. State Department in conjunction with Found Sound Nation. 

Ellis is a recipient of a 2014 Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellowship, a 2013 Rackham Centennial Fellowship and the 2012 Alice Chalifoux Prize in Harp. In addition to two artist residencies at Wildacres and performances at the National Orchestra Institute, Texas Music Festival, Spark Festival, and Britten Pears Emerging Composers Residency. 

Ellis has also toured the U.S. and Canada as a concert soloist with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra. She holds awards in the Coeur d’Alene Young Artists, Ladies Musical Club of Seattle, Inez Stafford, and California State American String Teachers Association competitions and has received both AT&T Foundation and Conservatory Dean’s scholarships.

Ellis earned her D.M.A. from University of Michigan, M.M from Cleveland Institute of Music and B.M. from Oberlin. Ellis is dedicated to innovative music pedagogy and has taught a combination of harp, eurhythmics and music theory privately as well as at institutions of higher learning. She specializes in inclusive teaching practices and her commitment to teaching has led her to help train other teachers through teaching eurhythmics pedagogy and leading practice teaching facilitations and training workshops.

Courses Taught

  • Applied Lessons
  • Conservatory Engage


  • DMA, University of Michigan in Harp Performance with a Certificate of Musicology and Graduate Teacher Certificate
  • MM, Cleveland Institute of Music of Music in Harp Performance
  • BM, Oberlin Conservatory in Harp Performance


  • Admiral Launch Duo, 2013-Present

Awards and Distinctions

  • UC Davis, Artist-in-Residence, 2017-2018
  • UM, Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellow, 2014-2015
  • Alice Chalifoux Prize Awardee, 2012

What is your hometown?

Walnut Creek, CA

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Teaching, reading, hiking, art museums, and history.

Who were your major teachers?

Joan Holland, Yolanda Kondonassis, Jessica Siegel, and Alice Giles.

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

For my harp students: “How do I practice well?”

For my community engagement students: “How do I make my community engagement work sustainable and satisfying?”

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

When I realized that music was renewing and rejuvenating, I knew I wanted to pursue music. Music always took what I put in, and gave me even more back in return.

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?

The future.

What are your most important collaborations?

Admiral Launch Duo (harp and saxophone collaboration)
One Beat Fellowship (a collaboration between Found Sound Nation and the US State Department)
My ongoing collaborations with living composers (I've performed over 80 premieres)

What are your academic publications?

“Seven Simple Strategies for Building Community Partnerships.” Harp Column Magazine (May/June 2016): 28-32.

"A Portrait of Yolanda Kondonassis.” The American Harp Journal 23, no. 3 (Summer 2012):10-18.

Research Coordinator working on Yolanda Kondonassis' book The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Harp (Carl Fischer) - Publication Anticipated 2018-2019

What recordings can we hear you on?

Steve Horowitz: Child of Amerika, Entertainment Tonight, Vivo For Mr. Powell; Release date June 1, 2016; The Code International; Premiere recording of Entertainment Tonight for Harp and Seven Players

Sumkali - Dha Re Dha; Release date April 17, 2018

Admiral Launch Duo - Launch, Albany Records, recorded by Zach Miley, Release date anticipated 2018