Jennifer Gersten is a musician, writer, and educator. At the moment, she’s in the final stages of a doctorate in violin at Stony Brook and living in Oslo on a Fulbright. In 2018, Jennifer won the Rubin Institute Prize in Music Criticism. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Which Sinfonia, and more.
How did you get to where you are today, professionally?
Since the age of six, I have been trying and failing to interest myself in anything other than writing and playing the violin. The question became how I was going to force those interests to work together, as they frequently conflict. I joined the daily newspaper as soon as I got to college at Yale and thought I had figured out my life as a newspaper journalist, but an internship in my sophomore year proved to me otherwise. My writing projects started to err on the essayistic, and I realized that I was much more keen on a style that allowed for greater voice and freedom. Which is to say that I appreciate any excuse, much like this one, to write about myself, or about situations where I have some personal stake.
After college, I spent a wonderful summer interning at NPR Music’s editorial department, then was promptly rejected from a journalism fellowship, and so threw myself into a master’s in violin, as it was always going to be one or the other. Galvanized by my NPR experience, I started writing concert reviews in exchange for free tickets and was lucky enough to work as an editor at the magazine Guernica. In 2018 I snatched up a free trip to San Francisco and ended up winning that year’s Rubin Institute Prize in Music Criticism, which came with a substantial cash prize and connected me to a number of incredible colleagues and mentors.