Americans lament a famed concertmaster

Americans lament a famed concertmaster


norman lebrecht

September 12, 2022

The esteemed violinist Jorja Fleezanis has died at her home in northern Michgan. She was 70.

We hear that she was found there by friends, who arrived to play chamber music.

Of Greek parentage, Jorja Fleezanis grew up in Detroit and became only the second woman to serve as concertmaster in a major US orchestra when she took the first chair in Minnesota. She served there from 1989 to 2009. Two eminent conductors have told us overnight that she was the best concertmaster they ever knew. At Minnesota, she gave the world premiere of the John Adams violin concerto, a work written for her.

Jorja Fleezanis was married to the music critic and concert annotator Michael Steinberg, who predeceased her in 2009.

In latter years she was a much-loved teacher at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

UPDATE: World’s tributes to Jorja


  • Caleb Y. says:

    Jorja was an absolute massive musician and force at Jacobs. Truly a huge loss for the musical world. I still remember her supportive presence during my first Don Juan at IU, as she basically led the whole fiddle section from the last stand. RIP.

  • Tim says:

    Very sad news. Nicholas Maw also wrote his 27-minute Sonata for Solo Violin for her, a commission from Minnesota Public Radio – which she recorded in 1997 before subsequently touring it in the US and UK.

  • Cleveland Boy says:

    This is shocking news to wake up to. I knew her well when we were students at the Cleveland Institute and for two summers at Meadow Brook, and we kept in touch for a while afterwards. She embraced the wisdom of Donald Weilerstein (if I’m remembering correctly), James Levine, and Walter Levin, and went farther with all of it than I ever could have dreamed. I can readily believe that prominent conductors would shower her with that accolade. What a loss. Condolences to the many who knew and admired her, and who learned from her.

  • Kristie says:

    *Indiana University

    My condolences to her family and friends.

  • Jeff R says:

    I am so sad to hear about this great loss. Jorja gave so much of herself, to colleagues, her students, and audiences .

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    This is so tragic. But her legacy has hit home with many. The few times we worked together with the Minnesota Orchestra were amazing. There’s a pulse between being a soloist and knowing that someone like Jorja was in the concertmaster chair. She gave you the sense that she was with you, like the co-pilot of the plane, the conductor as the main pilot, and the orchestra with us as the passengers. Such a consummate musician and humble, warm and caring human being. She will remain in many hearts and her legacy will live on in that special seat.

  • Judith Nelson says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful clip of Jorja’s masterclass. Her insight, humor and kindness shine through.
    What a wonderful person and musician. We’ll miss you, Jorja.

  • deN Roarem says:

    She was a strong player and presence. But she never struck me as being a proper concertmaster despite that.