Jess McIntosh insisted on learning the violin at five years old. By stroke of fate, she had the privilege of learning from one of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki's own students, Carol Waldvogel, until the age of 18, then followed her family's lineage across the Cumberland Gap and back. Now after 28 years playing,16 years performing, 13 years teaching, and 10 years touring, Jess's wealth of experience spans genres, age groups and state lines. She is an active performer, an adept banjo player, guitarist and songwriter and students appreciate that she specializes in connecting with young learners, demystifying bowing and rhythmic technique, and crossing over between classical and fiddle styles. Most of all, she's passionate about music as a vehicle for increasing connection and peace in the world.
Jess is an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA), registered in Every Child Can!, Violin Unit 1, 2 and 3. She's certified in the Mark O'Connor Method Books 1 and 2, and developed pedagogy for the Old Town School of Folk Music's Kids Fiddle Program. A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Violin Performance minor, Jess studied with Nobuyoshi Yasuda for 3 years. She thrived as a University Symphony Orchestra violinist, and was briefly concertmaster of the University Chamber Orchestra before she relocated in 2008-2009 to Johnson City, Tennessee to study Appalachian history and American fiddle traditions (East Tennessee State University Dept. of Bluegrass Old Time & Country Music). There she started to see more clearly the life she was searching for in music. Jess returned to the Midwest and, in an interesting twist, earned a Bachelors degree in Social Work and Spanish, spending a season as a county social worker before realizing performing and teaching music really was the path for her.
In 2013 Jess moved to Chicago to pursue teaching and music performance. She taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music for seven years, and has most recently founded her own independent string studio, Heart Strings Chicago. Her teaching draws from study and work in early childhood development, the Suzuki Method and traditional American music. She has been staff musician at Augusta Heritage Center's American Vernacular Dance Week (West Virginia 2014, 2015, 2017), teaching artist at Miles of Music Camp (New Hampshire 2014 and Boston 2017), and Suzuki enrichment clinician in the Midwest (North Shore Suzuki Strings 2018). With gratitude to venerated mentors Hunter Berry, Sammy Lind, Roy Andrade, David Yates, Ed Snodderly, Daniel Boner, Sue Demel and many others, she has developed and released 2 albums of original material with her Chicago-based songwriting project, Joybird (joybirdmusic.com).
Jess has toured internationally with Al Scorch (Bloodshot Records), shared the stage with legendary artists Steve Earle, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Chance McCoy, Gil Landry (Old Crow Medicine Show), and country bands Big Sadie and Horseshoe Bender. Her original music has been featured in award-winning feature-length film, Tom of Your Life (2020), silent film series, How Do We Sing? (2017) and Great Smoky Mountain National Park documentary, Horace Kephart: His Life and Legacy (2018). Jess made her debut as theater composer and lyricist scoring the House Theatre Company of Chicago's 2015 production, The Revel (written by Damon Kiely adapted from The Bacchae by Euripides). Since then she has been multi-instrumentalist for the House's production of Hatfield & McCoy (2018) and returns yearly as ensemble violinist for The Nutcracker, and in 2018 designed and performed music for the Chicago Children's Theatre's production of Leo Lionni's Frederick.