Dana Jessen

  • Associate Professor of Contemporary Music and Improvisation
  • Director of Conservatory Professional Development

Areas of Study



  • MM, New Dutch Swing through the Jazz & Pop Department, Artez Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Arnhem, the Netherlands, 2011
  • J. William Fulbright Fellowship, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2008-09
  • MM, bassoon performance, New England Conservatory of Music, 2007
  • BM, bassoon performance, Louisiana State University, 2005


Dana Jessen is a bassoonist, improviser, and educator with experience in artist-run ensembles, nonprofit organizations, and successful project-based music initiatives.

She is the cofounder of Splinter Reeds, a San Francisco-based reed quintet, and has performed with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Ensemble Dal Niente, Calefax Reed Quintet, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, and the Amsterdam Contemporary Ensemble, among others. Her tireless commitment to contemporary music through collaborations with composers and improvisers from around the globe has led to dozens of new solo, chamber, and electroacoustic works.

In 2009, Jessen spearheaded the commission of Rushes, an hourlong composition for seven bassoons by composer and Bang On a Can cofounder Michael Gordon. Her solo initiative Carve is a concert-length program of new works that she commissioned for bassoon and electronics. It was released as Jessen’s debut album on Innova in January 2017. She has now released three solo albums — Set (2023), Winter Chapel (2020), along with Carve—and she can also be heard on George Lewis’ Recombinant Trilogy (2021).

Jessen has received project support for numerous initiatives from granting organizations including New Music USA, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Chamber Music America, Zellerbach Family Foundation, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and the Netherland-America Cultural Grant. In August 2023, Jessen was honored with a Cleveland Arts Prize for mid-career artists. 

She lived in Amsterdam for three years, where she researched contemporary and improvised music as the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and the HSP Huygens Fellowship. In addition to her work at Oberlin, she is a member of the summer faculty at the Walden School Young Musicians Program.

Spring 2024

Secondary Private Study - Contemporary Improvisation — PVST 076
Secondary Private Study - Applied Study — PVST 099
Approaches and Philosophies of Free Music — APST 143
Chamber Music — APST 800
Contemporary Chamber Music — APST 805
Oberlin Creative Music Lab — APST 818

Fall 2024

Secondary Private Study - Contemporary Improvisation — PVST 076
Secondary Private Study - Applied Study — PVST 099
Professional Development for Musicians — PROF 200
Contemporary Chamber Music — APST 805
Oberlin Creative Music Lab — APST 818


Dana Jessen Wins Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career Award

August 14, 2023

The Cleveland Arts Prize has announced the 2023 winners of their 63rd edition of the awards. Bassoonist Dana Jessen, Oberlin Conservatory of Music associate professor of contemporary music and improvisation, won an award for mid-career artists. A soloist, chamber musician, improviser, and new music specialist, Jessen has presented dozens of world premiere performances throughout North America and Europe with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Dal Niente, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, S.E.M. Ensemble, and the Amsterdam Contemporary Ensemble. 

The Cleveland Arts Prize (CAP) promotes creativity in northeast Ohio by honoring artists for artistic excellence and recognizes community leaders who help regional arts flourish. CAP winners will be honored at an October 26 awards event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Jessen joins a long roster of Oberlin College and Conservatory faculty and alumni who have been honored with Cleveland Arts Prize awards including Baroque oboist Debra Nagy BM ’00 & MM ’02, harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell ’90, harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, writer Dan Chaon, African American music and jazz studies professor Wendell Logan, conductor Louis Lane, art historian Ellen Johnson, harpist Alice Chalifoux, painter John Pearson, and composers H. Leslie Adams, ’55, Margaret Brouwer ’62, Lewis Nielson,  Dennis Eberhard, Edward Miller, Walter Aschaffenburg, and Herbert Elwell.


Semester Ends with a Packed Performance Calendar

December 8, 2023

Oberlin Conservatory’s student and faculty performers have been filling most concert venues throughout the campus over the last week. During these final five bustling days before students head into reading period and then exams, this explosion of activity feels something akin to the thrilling finale of a fireworks display on New Year's Eve. So, join in—even from a distance. All of these concerts are free and open to the public, and all but one of them can be streamed live at concert time at oberlin.edu/livestream .

Oberlin Improv Fest 2023 Celebrates Range of Creative Practices

March 2, 2023

This year Oberlin students have had the opportunity for the first time to declare a minor in a new formalized course of study in improvisation. And from Thursday, March 2 through Saturday, March 4, they will have an immersive experience in the Oberlin Improv Fest 2023. All events of the festival are also open to audiences and are free.