Meet the Violinist Transforming the Arts Through Social Innovation

by Xara Aziz
Courtesy: Wildkat

Described as “superb” by the Chicago Classical Review, violinist Njioma Chinyere Grevious is an emerging, passionate and versatile solo, chamber and orchestral musician and performer. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School and a winner of its John Erskine Prize for scholastic and artistic achievement, and in 2024 was named a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant

In 2023, Njioma won the Grand Prize of the Concert Artist Guild (CAG) and the Young Classical Artist Trust (YCAT) CAG Elmaleh Competition, as well as the Robert F. Smith First Prize and the Audience Choice awards in the Senior Division of the Sphinx Competition.  In 2022, she was the winner of concerto competitions at the University of Delaware and the Newark Symphony Orchestra. Njioma was also a winner of the Music Academy of the West Keston-Max Fellowship to study and perform in the London Symphony Orchestra in November 2022. 

She won First Prizes for Performance and Interpretation in the 2018 Prix Ravel in Fontainebleau, France. As a soloist, Njioma has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra, Chicago Philharmonic, the Western Michigan Symphony and the Newark Symphony Orchestra.

A founding member of the Abeo Quartet, Njioma recently completed graduate studies with Ryan Meehan and the Calidore String Quartet at the University of Delaware where she was also a fellow in the inaugural Graduate String Quartet in Residence Program. Abeo is the Third Prize winner of the 2023 Bad Tölz International String Quartet Competition.

In 2022, Abeo won First Prize and the Audience Favorite Prize at the Yellow Springs Chamber Music Competition and was invited to participate in the 14th Banff International String Quartet Competition.  The quartet was also a finalist in the 2022 Young Concert Artists competition and has been a winner of Silver Medals in the Chesapeake International and Fischoff chamber music competitions. Abeo has appeared on WQXR Midday Masterpieces and WETA Classical Radio as well as in performances in the Schneider Concert Series, Alice Tully Hall, The Kennedy Center, Emerald City Music, in Montreal, and Oslo, Norway, and in residence at the Glenstone Museum, where they premiered  “Moonshot” by Alistair Coleman.  At Juilliard, the quartet studied under the tutelage of the Juilliard String Quartet and has also been coached by members of the Alban Berg, Quatuor Ebene, Takács, Artemis, Brentano, Miró and Emerson quartets.

Njioma is a frequent chamber music series player and has performed in festivals including the Seattle Chamber Music Society Winter Festival, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Perlman Chamber Music Workshop, Juilliard String Quartet Seminar, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, Montreal International String Quartet Academy, Meadowmount, Fontainebleau Schools and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Njioma Grevious leading Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Photo by Chris Lee

For many years, Njioma was a scholarship recipient through Boston’s Project STEP string training program for Black and Latino youth and at the time also earned summer study scholarship assistance through Winsor Music.  Her principal teachers have also included Ronald Copes, James Buswell, Mariana Green-Hill and Farhoud Moshfegh. Njioma, who began studying the violin at the age of 4, has since performed in numerous volunteer concerts with her siblings and many others. 

As a Juilliard Gluck Fellow she performed regularly for the medically vulnerable, retirees and children. These days Njoma loves teaching composition and collaboration to NYC elementary and middle school students from underrepresented communities through the Opportunity Music Project.

Shine My Crown spoke with Njioma about her life, legacy and how she is helping to shape the future of the arts for generations to come.  

1. Can you tell us about your early beginnings in music? What inspired you to pursue a career in classical music? 

I began playing the violin when I was 4 years old.  I gained inspiration from my mother and older siblings, and joined the Focus Program at Project STEP at age 4. Project STEP is a string training program in Boston for black and Latino students wanting to learn and excel at string instruments. 

I always loved the friendships and connections that came with a life in music growing up, and always had a special place in my heart for the art of chamber music in particular. 

2. As part of our research into your musical background for this interview, we came across your performance at the 26th annual Sphinx Competition in Detroit in January last year. We think you were flawless on the violin! Why the violin? What’s the story behind your love for violin?

Thank you! That was such an incredible day of wonderful art and community. To share the stage with incredible black and brown musicians of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, led by an incredible young African American woman conductor (and good friend of mine) Kalena Bovell, and in such a gorgeous space as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall was a dream come true. The violin is such a beautiful and versatile instrument. I was immediately drawn to it once I heard my eldest of two siblings practicing one day. It’s been my love and work ever since. 

3. What do you consider to be your most significant achievements so far in your career?

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint just one most significant achievement. Things have been so exciting, and being able to do what I love feels like an achievement on its own. But here are a few highlights: winning the Sphinx Competition Senior Division in 2023, the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2024, performing chamber with so many esteemed musicians and at a variety of wonderful series and festivals, successes with the Abeo Quartet which I confounded in 2018, and most recently

I am thrilled to have become a member of the amazing Orpheus Chamber Orchestra this past May.

4. How do you think classical music can attract younger audiences, especially African Americans like yourself?

Already, so many organizations and presenters are trying to attract younger and more diverse audiences through programming and unique collaborations that they choose and by bringing on African-American performers like myself. When I was young I was truly inspired seeing black artists who were given platforms to shine! Through Orpheus I know that I will also be a role model for others who want to get to know classical music more or become a professional musician one day. Organizations like Orpheus also do a wonderful job of outreach through teaching and side-by-side performances and ticket offerings to diverse young musicians.

Some organizations also link social opportunities with concert attendance for young adults like the Orpheus Social Club.

5. When we return in say 5 years for another sit down/interview what would your story be? Give us a glimpse into the future. 

A glimpse into the future, looks like more and more getting out there and performing on stages globally as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician. I look forward to being a part of the continued evolution of the incredible Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. 

6. What advice would you give to young musicians, especially African Americans, who aspire to have a career in classical music? 

Believe in yourself and your ideas. Confidence and conviction in your musical voice will bring you very far! Become as consistent as possible in making time for practice. Seek out opportunities to perform with others. And of course, constant curiosity

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