Meet Jessica Escobar

Reno Phil Violinist

What year did you join the orchestra?

How long have you been playing music?
Since 1992.

How did you pick your instrument?
At the end of fifth grade, I had to pick between choir, orchestra, and band for the next year. I love singing, but wanted to learn something new and was worried that I would be unable to play a wind instrument when sick with a sore throat! (Didn’t even think about percussion!) We had done three weeks of violin during the Washoe County School District’s Exploratory Strings Program that year and I also liked the name of the instrument. Those were the official reasons why my child’s brain chose the instrument and I even told my parents that I would be playing it for the rest of my life, and therefore it would be better to buy one than rent one. But if I’m to be 100% honest, I actually like to think that my future self whispered into the ear of my past self and drew me into the future that I was always going to have.

State Certified Court Interpreter in English <> Spanish for the Second Judicial District Court of Nevada.

When you’re not playing with the Reno Phil, what would we most likely see you doing in your free time?
Walking in nature, reading, talking with my mom on the phone, contemplating, watching science fiction and fantasy, writing prose poetry, studying languages, telling myself that I should study mathematics, laughing at my own jokes, and singing/dancing around the house (a lot).

What genre of music are you most excited to play?
Fanfares and dramatic music. Music from movies, television series, Broadway musicals, and pop hits. Program music. Folk/world music and orchestral music containing folk/world music elements. Music from the Romantic era. Music featuring instruments uncommon to the Western orchestral tradition. Earthy music that is in your very BONES on one end of the spectrum. On the other end of the spectrum, tonal contemporary classical music that’s WEIRD and makes you think, but is relatable, like an alien being whom you don’t fully understand, but in whom you can see yourself.

What is your favorite piece of all time to play, and why?
I could never pick just one, but rather one type of feeling that my favorites all evoke. There are many. A very small sampling is Scheherazade, the New World Symphony, Appalachian Spring, the Firebird Suite… heck, the themes from Superman and E.T.! To explain WHY, I need to articulate WHAT – what they make me feel. The simplest way to do this was to close my eyes and type out my stream of consciousness as I remembered favorite musical passages. Here is what came up: adventure, sweeping, glorious, epic, uplifting to the heavens, divinity, soul cracking open, letting in the light, connection to something bigger and far greater, oceanic feeling encompassing all of time and space, mystical siren call through the vast mists and impossible distances of forever, heroic, larger than life, heart aflame, love, strength, power, dignity, Order slicing Chaos, a truer substance beneath the everyday, liquid beauty, stirring, ancient, eternal, unchanging, ever-changing, the sadness beneath the joy, the joy beneath the sadness, the simplicity of being, the complexity of being, surreal calm, uncontainable euphoria, sheer electricity, everyone is good, everything is beautiful, everything works out.

If you could meet one composer/musician, who would it be and why?
Honestly, anyone who overcame adversity and terrible odds to do what they did and be amazing at it. I’d like to interview them all and find the common thread in their spirit, whether the challenges they faced were physical, emotional, political, religious, discriminatory, or anything else. Also Caroline Shaw because we are the same age and we both play the violin and sing, plus she is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer who writes innovative, fresh-sounding music that I really enjoy, so I would love to see what that kind of a life and person looks like up close!

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Burning Man. I also love Walt Disney World and cruises.

What do you think the audience would find surprising about you?
My first language is Spanish and I am Colombian-American, but I don’t like coffee! I also don’t like alcohol and I definitely cannot handle spicy food of any kind. I speak three languages fluently, not including the weird sounds that I make around stuffed animals. I majored in anthropology because I wanted to find the lost continent of Atlantis. I worked in archaeology during college and after graduate school, lived and worked in France, and taught anthropology and French at UNR and TMCC. I wrote and illustrated my first book for publication in the seventh grade, but never submitted it. I adore stuffed animals, saw five UFOs one night, eat pizza backwards (crust first), and would like to see Earth from orbit. I kind of wish that I could talk to plants and non-human animals, that I could understand the fourth dimension spatially, that I could move objects with my mind, that I could fly like a bird, and that I could successfully fake a British accent – ANY British accent!

What about performing live music brings you joy?
When I perform live music, all of those feelings that I mentioned that it makes me feel… I am enfolded by and PART of all that. It does not simply wash over me, but comes out THROUGH me AS me. I get to be one of the magicians who reinfuses the breath of life into the dormant symbols on the page and incarnates a new and anew the vision. And in so doing as part of an ensemble, my colleagues and I metamorphose together into the perfect microcosm of the universe: the symphony orchestra as a super-organic whole that weaves totally different beings, instruments, and musical parts into a single unified creation. One entity in which the beautiful individuality of each component sustains and uplifts the beautiful individuality of every other, made more dazzling by the contrast between them, as all travel the same path in different ways. Every heart on stage and in the concert hall beats as one. And then there is that moment of silence at the end – just that one perfect moment of stillness as the last note from the orchestra dies and the sound is transferred to the audience. That glorious applause that ignites the electrified air like fire as those who were silent now can join in pure kinetic energy and feed the souls of those who just fed theirs… and the energy loop is closed. THAT is what performing and experiencing live music is all about to me. It’s an energy transfer between living beings. But it’s also a communication between souls dead and alive; past, present, and future; near and far across space and time.


Reno Phil violinist Jessica Escobar shares a few favorites that bring us light in a dark time.