2024 Fortissima Program

About Fortissima 

Housed under Colburn’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact, Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for female-identifying high school-age participants from underrepresented minorities in classical music or who have a socioeconomic disadvantage. ǰپ’s innovative leadership curriculum, paired with rigorous artistic development and one-on-one mentorship, is designed to inspire, equip, and empower the Fellows to pursue professional training and careers in the classical music field. All participants receive full scholarships which cover tuition as well as room and board while on campus.

Fortissima Program Leadership

Jannina Norpoth

Grammy-nominated violinist Jannina Norpoth made her debut as a soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at age 14. Since then she has built a career as an innovative collaborative artist with a passion for contemporary music, genre bending and improvisation, a sought after arranger and orchestrator, and an advocate for a more inclusive and versatile landscape in classical music.

Her string quartet, , is recognized for unique and genre inclusive programming, earning them the 2019 Visionary Artist Award from Chamber Music America, 2015 Adventurous Programming Award from ASCAP and Chamber Music America and New Music/ New Places Prize at the 2013 Concert Artist’s Guild Competition.

Ms. Norpoth has performed internationally, including appearances at the Women of the World Festival at The Apollo Theater, Detroit Art X Festival, Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Saturday Night Live, VH1’s Save the Music, IFC’s Dinner with the Band, and Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Hall. As a soloist she has performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony, Casalmaggiore International Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble 212, and Bachanalia Chamber Orchestra. Most recently during COVID-19 she has been a featured virtual performer for digital performances from The Kennedy Center, The Library of Congress and Living Music with Nadia Sirota.

She has been a featured performer alongside such acclaimed musicians as James Carter, Nadia Sirota, Regina Carter, Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Helga Davis, Marcus Belgrave, Dave Young, Mike Garson, A. Spencer Barefield, Jay – Z, Beyoncé, Anita Baker, Sheila E., Boys II Men, Dionne Warwick, My Brightest Diamond, Alexi Murdoch, and many others.

Praised by Strad Magazine for her ability to write a transcription “so natural sounding that it could have been the composer’s original version.” Ms. Norpoth is a sought after arranger both in the classical and non-classical worlds. Recent commissions include Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Sphinx Virtuosi, Trinity Wall Street and the Volcano Theatre Company’s new adaptation of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha”.

Ms. Norpoth lives in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with her husband John-Paul and their puggle Vegas. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of a new adaptation of Scott Joplin’s Opera Treemonisha, featuring a collaborative orchestration with composer Jessie Montgomery and commissioned by Volcano: an experimental theatre company based in Toronto, as well as a duo recording of Prokofiev’s Sonatas for violin and piano with pianist Maria Meirelles.

Fortissima Mentors

Titilayo Ayangade 

With over two decades on the cello, Titilayo Ayangade has gracefully navigated classical music’s landscape. A recent recipient of the Chamber Music America Artistic Projects grant, as the cellist of Duo Kayo, Titilayo continues her history of excellence in chamber music preceded by awards at Fischoff and tours spanning China to Brazil. 

Titilayo is a passionate educator, coaching chamber music at New York Youth Symphony, various summer festivals, and she is also a 2024 Lift Every Voice Juror at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. In Spring of 2024, Titilayo was awarded the Sphinx MPower Artist grant, to record and release a newly commissioned work by Curtis Stewart. 

This season features collaborations with the Sphinx Virtuosi, Minnesota Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Lukes, and performances on stages at MAD Museum, Caramoor, Newport Classical, Lincoln Center, and more. Titilayo champions BIPOC musicians through commissioning new works, research and performance, advocating for an inclusive musical tapestry. Off-stage, she’s a successful portrait photographer, crafting vibrant and colorful images with Grammy-nominated musicians and creatives from all arenas. Explore her journey at


Chanell Crichlow

Chanell Crichlow is a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, California. Known for her lush sound and vibrant compositions, she has received praise from esteemed publications such as Flaunt Magazine and Downbeat Magazine.

In 2021, Chanell had the honor of being selected as a Sundance Composers Lab Fellow, where she had the opportunity to collaborate closely with accomplished Film and Television composers to refine her craft. Recently, she also completed a residency at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, and was one of the Sundance Institute’s Art of Practice Fellows.

Their music has graced several remarkable projects, including the co-scoring of HBO’s “The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring”, a documentary on Rachel Lee, the so-called teenage mastermind behind a string of high-profile celebrity robberies directed by Erin Lee Carr, “My Fake Boyfriend” (Prime Video), a queer romantic comedy directed by Rose Troche, and “How Not To Date While Trans,” directed by Nyala Moon, which received the Grand Jury Prize at NewFest and Best Short Film at Bendigo Queer Film Festival and Translations Film Festival. Chanell also scored Nyala’s latest film, “Dilating for Maximum Results,” which was honored with the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding U.S. Narrative Short at Outfest.

Beyond the film world, Chanell’s melodies have found their way into popular podcasts, as she created the theme music for Crooked Media’s “Work Appropriate” with host Anne Helen Petersen, Audiation’s “Gender Spiral” hosted by Ally Beardsley and Babette Thomas and most recently, Duolingo’s “The Secret Life of Josephine Baker” with host Ariana DeBose. She also had the honor of composing the 2024 WNCAA (March Madness) Tournament Theme for ESPN which underscored the highly anticipated and most viewed college basketball games of all time.


Karla Donehew Perez

Admired for her “luscious melodies” (New York Concert Review) and enlightened programming, violinist Karla Donehew Perez is a founding member of the GRAMMY-winning Catalyst Quartet as well as an acclaimed soloist, educator, and creative collaborator with numerous world-class artists and ensembles. Among her many honors, she has earned top prizes in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Sphinx Competition. She is currently a professor of violin studies at the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

With the Catalyst Quartet, Karla has toured widely in the U.S. and abroad. Their recording projects include Uncovered, a series highlighting historically important Black composers, and the 2017 GRAMMY-winning album Dreams and Daggers with Cecile McLorin Salvant. The quartet is currently Ensemble-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As a soloist, Karla has appeared with the Berkeley Symphony, Sacramento Philharmonic, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, and Sphinx Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, among others. As a chamber musician, she has performed with ensembles including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO), and collaborated with such artists as Joshua Bell, Anthony McGill and Fredericka Von Stade. She has served as guest concertmaster at the Tucson Symphony and spent two years as a fellow at the New World Symphony.

An avid teacher and mentor, Karla has taken part in residencies and masterclasses Kennedy Center, New York Philharmonic, and multiple collegiate music programs. She also performs at numerous major music festivals.

Besides her Catalyst Quartet recordings, Karla performs on Strum (Azica Records), a collection of works by Jessie Montgomery; and Bandoneón y Cuerdas, a collaborative album with JP Jofre. She recently recorded the solo violin music for Mosaic, a method anthology highlighting artists from underrepresented communities.

Born in Puerto Rico, Karla earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music.


Lady Jess

Lady Jess performs and records extensively in New York and Los Angeles. As a soloing member of Beyoncé’s band, she toured with the superstar and her husband, Jay-Z in 2018 for On The Run II tour, recording and arranging with the Carters for their Grammy-nominated album Everything Is Love in 2019, after appearing in the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary Homecoming. She is a 2020 winner of the UNCSA Artpreneur of the Year award, 2020 Sphinx MPower grant recipient, and 2021-22 fellow at The Hermitage Artist Retreat, where she debuted her suite for solo violin and electronics, Ophelia. She has been a guest speaker and panelist for the League of American Orchestras, Gateways Music Festival, Sphinx Organization, University of NC School of the Arts, Apollo Theater and more. Jess made her Broadway debut at Sweeney Todd, and is currently in the orchestra at The Great Gatsby.

A regular session musician, Lady Jess was concertmaster and contractor for the Oscar nominated film Judas and The Black Messiah. Additional film score credits include: The Lion King, Da 5 Bloods, Space Jam, Creed, and more. In New York, she performs with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, American Composers Orchestra and the New York Pops. In 2021, she toured with the Sphinx Virtuosi. In 2023, she made her solo debut at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival with the Chelsea Symphony, and as guest concertmaster at Chicago Lyric Opera for the premiere of Will Liverman’s opera The Factotum.

Artist collaborations include: Stevie Wonder, Chloe X Halle, Black Coffee, Will Liverman, Black Thought, Solange, Max Richter, Carrie Mae Weems, Terrence Blanchard, Alicia Keys, et al. Lady Jess released a premiere recording of music by Florence Price on the Naxos label with pianist Ric’key Pageot in 2021, is a featured artist on Will Liverman’s 2023 release, The Dunbar/Moore Sessions, featuring original art songs set to the text of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Dorothy Moore, along with a 2024 release of new music alongside baritone Will Liverman, and featuring soprano Renee Fleming.

Fortissima in Concert: May 24

As a capstone to their on-campus intensive, the 2024 Fortissima Fellows will perform a concert on Friday, May 24 featuring works by female-identifying and BIPOC composers curated by Jannina Norpoth. The performance is free, no tickets required, and will be livestreamed at .