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Artistic Director, Conductor, Cellist

Eric Jacobsen

Eric Jacobsen conducting


Artistic Director, Conductor, Cellist

Just 40 years old and already well-established as one of classical music’s most exciting and innovative young conductors, Eric Jacobsen combines fresh interpretations of the traditional canon with cutting-edge collaborations across musical genres. Hailed by the New York Times as “an interpretive dynamo,” Eric, as both a conductor and a cellist, has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative programming.

Eric is artistic director and co-founder of The Knights, the uniquely adventurous NYC-based chamber orchestra. The ensemble, founded with his brother, violinist Colin Jacobsen, grew out of late-night music reading parties with friends, good food and drink, and conversation. As conductor, Jacobsen has led the “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (New York Times) at venues throughout New York City and surrounding areas, at major summer festivals, and on tour nationally and internationally. Under Jacobsen’s baton, The Knights have developed an extensive recording collection, which includes the critically acclaimed albums Azul, with longtime collaborator Yo-Yo Ma, as well as a recent featuring Gil Shaham in performances of the Beethoven and Brahms Violin Concertos.

Eric is also Music Director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, continuing to pioneer both orchestra’s programming and community engagement in new and exciting directions.

Eric brings joy, storytelling, and a touch of humor to what he describes as “musical conversations” that delight audiences around the world, including those who don’t traditionally attend classical music concerts. Jacobsen is married to Grammy-winning, singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan and they have a five-year-old daughter, Ivy Jo.


Eric Jacobsen is a cellist and conductor residing in Brooklyn, New York. He has performed with Renee Fleming on David Letterman and at the inaugural concert at Zankel Hall at Carnegie. Mr. Jacobsen has also appeared with The Silkroad Ensemble at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics in Shanghai.

In 2006 Eric's brother, Colin a violinist, was in residence on NPR's 'Performance Today'. It was during this time that Eric and Colin and their long-standing friends Johnny Gandelsman and Nick Cords came together. Their strong camaraderie and mutual desire to work in the string quartet medium led them to form Brooklyn Rider. Their collaboration with the Iranian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor inspired their first album, 'Silent City'. The album includes arrangements and compositions by Mr. Kalhor and Colin Jacobsen. Eric appeared on eight subsequent recordings with the groundbreaking group.

Eric is a member of the Silkroad Project, founded by Yo-Yo Ma. He has participated in residencies and performances in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and across the USA including The Art Institute of Chicago and The Hollywood Bowl.

In May of 2009, Eric led The Knights at the opening of the Dresden 'Musikfestspiele' with soloists Dawn Upshaw and Christina Courtin. Eric was also the cellist in the Mark O'Connor String Quartet performing original works by the great American fiddler.

Eric studied at The School for Strings as a youngster and later graduated from The Juilliard School. He worked extensively with the late Harvey Shapiro and with Joseph Elworthy, and he also considers Anner Bylsma and Yo-Yo Ma instrumental influences in his playing. Eric can be heard on recordings with Yo-Yo Ma, Bono, and Mark O'Connor.

Eric plays a Giovanni Battista Genova cello crafted in Turin 1745.

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