Gloria Justen is a versatile composer, violinist and violist known for dynamic, emotionally-charged performances. She was fortunate to study with Fredell Lack as a teenager in Houston before attending the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied violin with David Cerone and Szymon Goldberg and viola with Karen Tuttle. Her compositions, drawing upon influences from Bach to contemporary electronic music, have been performed by soloists, small groups and chamber orchestras in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Gloria has performed and toured internationally with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, toured with the Philip Glass Ensemble, and played many works by contemporary composers. She served as Concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia from 2006-2011. She has also collaborated with modern dancers, video artists and electronic musicians. A resident of San Francisco since 2007, she released her first original album, Four-Stringed Voice: music for solo violin, in 2008; and her album Sonaquifer: music for solo viola comes out in December 2017. Since 2016 she has worked full-time as an independent composer, performer, recording artist and publisher of her own scores.
Gloria Justen was born in 1966 in Portland, Oregon, into a musical family, and she began playing the violin at the age of seven. As a teenager in Houston, Texas, she studied with Fredell Lack, and she won awards and played as a soloist with the Houston Symphony and other orchestras in Texas. She then attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied one year with David Cerone and five years with Szymon Goldberg. She also studied viola with Karen Tuttle and chamber music with Felix Galimir.
After completing her Bachelor's Degree at Curtis in 1990, Gloria stayed in Philadelphia, performing with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (from 1986-2011, serving as Concertmaster from 2006-2011) and performing and touring internationally with the Philadelphia Orchestra as a first-call Substitute Violinist from 1991-2012. During that time she also played with contemporary music groups Relâche, Network for New Music and Orchestra 2001, both as a soloist and as a member of the ensembles. Gloria has worked personally with composers Tan Dun, Philip Glass, Jennifer Higdon, Andrea Clearfield, and many others for special projects. She also has recorded for numerous popular music stars, such as Justin Timberlake, Vivian Green, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu and Timbaland in The Studio of renowned arranger Larry Gold. After moving to California in 2007, Gloria commuted back and forth to Philadelphia for a few years to continue some playing there while making the transition to her new home. She performed from 2012 - 2016 as a frequent first-call Substitute Violinist with the San Francisco Symphony. As of May 2016, Gloria has been a full-time self-employed composer, performer and artist.
Since moving to California, Gloria composed and recorded a CD called Four-Stringed Voice, music for solo violin (released 2008.) The scores for this collection of solo violin pieces are now being printed and published by the composer. In 2009 her piece Not Created or Destroyed, for Solo Violin, Solo Cello and Strings, was written for and premiered by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. In 2015 Gloria was commissioned by Hannah Addario-Berry to write a piece for her Scordatura Project, and that project led Gloria to explore in more depth the possibilities of alternate tunings and the resonances of various-sized violins and violas. In August 2016 Gloria created a piece entitled Distillations: Sonic Fragments from Lobos Creek, for Five-Stringed Viola and Piano, commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Anthony B. Creamer, III, for an event in honoring the life of artist Ellsworth Kelly.
In the late 1990s Gloria began improvising using amplified violin, playing along with DJ tracks. Going in this direction opened up a whole world of creative possibilities. Improvisation inspired her to begin composing and this soon led to projects with dancers and visual artists. Gloria created music with small ensembles for productions by choreographers Myra Bazell and Manfred Fischbeck (Group Motion Dance Company) in Philadelphia. With electronic composer Peter Price, she played with a violin-computer interactive improvisation process for choreographer Megan Bridge's dance pieces and for various music concerts. Gloria's most recent collaboration with Peter Price, in 2012, was a realization of Pierre Boulez's Anthemes II, presented by Orchestra 2001. The piece is scored for amplified violin and a computerized "orchestra" of spatialized sounds. Another collaborator in Philadelphia has been guitarist/producer Tim Motzer, with whom Gloria created a piece celebrating the art of Salvador Dali for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gloria also provided violin tracks for Secret Voices, No Time for Silence, an album on Motzer's label, 1krecordings.
The Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia premiered Gloria’s first composition for chamber orchestra, Zephyr, for Solo Violin, Strings and Percussion, in 2001. A composition entitled Foxy Lady and the Magic Box, for which Gloria recorded and layered all the string parts herself, was performed on the series Kimmel Center Presents in 2006. Also in 2006 Gloria created a 45-minute surround-sound collage called The Movie is in Your Mind, which was presented at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. In that piece Gloria used field recordings she had made in natural and urban locations, layers of sound recorded in her home studio, and an eclectic collection of 24 speakers to create a sonic experience for which she asked listeners to don blindfolds.
Current projects include composing chamber music for both traditional and electro-acoustic instruments, collaborating with dancers, and creating soundtracks for short films.