Present and Past
Dylana Jenson (violin)
Dylana Jenson is an American concert violinist and violin teacher. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, conductor-cellist David Lockington, music director laureate of the Grand Rapids Symphony. They have four children. Jenson is the sister of Vicky Jenson, an animated film story board artist and director.
Dylana Jenson was a child prodigy. She studied violin with her mother beginning at age two and ten months. She then studied with the prominent violin teacher Manuel Compinsky, the internationally renowned concert violinist Nathan Milstein and the preeminent violin pedagogue Josef Gingold. She made her debut at age eight, playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. At age nine, she appeared on a Jack Benny television special, re-enacting Benny's famous duet with Gisele MacKensie. At age eleven, she performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with Thomas Schippers conducting. On January 17, 1973 Dylana played Henri Wieniawski's Concert Polonaise for a nationwide audience on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, preceding a comical violin solo by comedian Jack Benny. By age thirteen, she had performed with many of the leading orchestras in the U.S., including the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She toured Europe, Latin America and the Soviet Union. In 1978, at age seventeen and already a seasoned concert performer, she shared the silver medal in the International Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow. Nevertheless, she stopped playing altogether for several months thereafter when she experienced a lack of interest from leading concert managers. [Boris Schwarz: Great Masters of the Violin]
Jenson made her Carnegie Hall concert debut on December 9, 1980, playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. The performance was received with great acclaim. In 1981, she recorded the Sibelius Violin Concerto and the Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra for RCA Red Seal. That performance is still regarded as one of the finest recordings of the Sibelius Concerto. Music critic Edward Downes characterized her work as "unsurpassed since Heifetz."
Before her marriage, Jenson had the long-term loan from a wealthy violin collector of a 1743 Guarnerius del Gesu violin, the instrument with which she made the Sibelius recording. When she announced to her benefactor that she was to marry, she was given a short time in which to return the instrument because, he told her, if she was to marry she was not serious about a career as a concert performer. Eventually, however, Yo Yo Ma, the preeminent cellist of his era, referred her to Samuel Zygmuntowicz, a contemporary master violin maker in Brooklyn who has made sound-alike copies of great antique Stradivarius and Guarnerius violins for such violin superstars as Isaac Stern and Joshua Bell. In 1995 Jenson commissioned a violin from Zygmuntowicz based on a Guarnerius del Gesu model. This was the instrument used in the recorded Carnegie Hall concert and the Shostakovitch/Barber CD recording.
In 2000, she was named Distinguished Professor of Music at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As of 2014, she is no longer listed as a faculty member. She recently started teaching as a visiting associate professor of violin at Notre Dame University.
In addition to her teaching career, Jenson has continued her performance career, albeit with a less heavy schedule than the most famous concert artists and usually with regional rather than top-ranked orchestras. She often performs with the Grand Rapids Symphony under the direction of her husband. These performances have included, in 2005, a triumphant return to Carnegie Hall. One critic, Harris Goldsmith of the New York Concert Review, said of this performance: "In Jenson’s hands, even lyrical passages had an intense, tremulous quality... a sizzling performance. I can give no higher praise than to say that her excellent performance brought to mind, and was a loving tribute to, the great Nathan Milstein... who was one of Jenson’s mentors."
Jenson has also appeared in the past few years with the Baltimore Symphony, the Santa Barbara Symphony, Indian Hill Orchestra (Littleton, Massachusetts), the Louisiana Philharmonic, the New Mexico Symphony, and at the Berkshire, Eastern, and other famous music festivals. She has made tours of Australia and Japan and was made an Honorary Citizen at the age of 12 for her contributions to music in Costa Rica. Jenson plays recitals as well as concerts.