Praised for her diverse talents, bassoonist Dana Jessen is in high demand as a soloist, chamber musician, improviser and new music specialist. Dana is the founder of Splinter Reeds, a San Francisco-based reed quintet, and has performed with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Ensemble Dal Niente, Calefax Quintet, Rushes Ensemble, Pamela Z, Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Orchestra, Lucky Dragons, Amsterdam Contemporary Ensemble, Callithumpian Consort and Harvard Group for New Music, among others. Her strong ambitions to explore free jazz and creative improvisation have led to performances throughout Europe and the United States with Han Bennink, Frank Gratkowski, Joe Morris, Taylor Ho Bynum, Michael Moore, Ab Baars, Anne La Berge, Wilbert de Joode, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Mike Reed and many others.
Dana's tireless commitment to expand the modern bassoon repertoire through collaborations with composers from around the globe has led to dozens of new solo, chamber and electroacoustic works. She is currently working with composers Paula Matthusen, Sam Pluta and Peter V. Swendsen on a solo program of works for bassoon and live electronics.
In 2009, Dana created the New Music Bassoon Fund, an ongoing consortium commissioning podium dedicated to large scale works for bassoon. Through this ground-breaking organization, Dana invited 30 bassoonists to participate in the project’s first commission, an hour-long composition titled, Rushes, for seven bassoons by composer and Bang on a Can co-founder, Michael Gordon. Dana premiered Rushes in Fall 2012 with a hand picked ensemble of the most innovative bassoonists in the U.S. and continues to tour it around the world. Hailed as "fascinating…Gordon's simple transformations achieve, in all their simplicity, a great expressiveness" (NRC-Dutch National Newspaper), Rushes has been described as an evening length tour-de-force.
Recent concert highlights include performances at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Ravinia Music Festival, Belgium’s Concertgebouw Brugge, Berlin's Universität der Künste, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, November Music in the Netherlands, Brooklyn’s Roulette, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Amsterdam's World Minimal Music Festival at the Muziekgebouw aan' t IJ. She has been artist in residence at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Amsterdam's STEIM, De Lindenberg Productiehuis, and the Omi International Arts Center. Her recordings as a bassoonist and improviser can be heard on Cantaloupe Music, RIOJA, Evil Rabbit, Oberlin Music and the New World record labels. Dana has also been heard on radio programs including NPR's All Things Considered, Chicago Public Radio’s Relevant Tones and the BBC Radio's Hear and Now.
Dana is currently the Director of Professional Development at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and teaches during the summers at the Walden School Young Musicians Program where she can also be seen performing with the Walden School Players. She has presented masterclasses and workshops on topics surrounding contemporary music and improvisation for students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and University of California at Berkeley among others. She holds a M.M. in Bassoon Performance with academic honors from the New England Conservatory of Music and a M.M. in Improvisation from the Artez Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in the Netherlands. She lived in Amsterdam for three years as the recipient of a 2009-2011 HSP Huygens Fellowship and 2008-2009 J. William Fulbright Fellowship where she researched contemporary and improvised music.