Mazz Swift

She // Her // Hers

[ID: Mazz, a chocolate-complexioned woman stares defiantly into the camera as she holds an acoustic violin in one hand, drawn back as if to shoot it like an arrow, and an electric violin in her front hand, aimed directly at the camera, like a bow.]

Violinist, Composer, and Conductor
Brooklyn, NY
2021 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Mazz Swift is a Juilliard-trained violinist as well as composer, conductor, singer, bandleader, and educator.

As a violinist and singer, Swift has performed on many of the world’s greatest stages, including Royal Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, Müpa Budapest, and David Geffen Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Damrosch Park at New York’s Lincoln Center. As composer, she has been commissioned for work by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada, and the Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation in New Harmony, IN.

She has performed and taught workshops in free improvisation and “conduction” (conducted improvisation) on six continents; she is also a performing member and teaching artist with the acclaimed Silkroad Ensemble. As a Carnegie Hall teaching artist, she wrote and recorded lullabies with incarcerated mothers and mothers-to-be at Rikers Island and coached inmates at Sing Sing prison in string studies and composition.

Improvisation is a through line across genres and instrumental configurations in her practice and, as such, can be found in most of her work. Swift is a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, continually creating orchestral compositions that involve conduction and solo works centered around protest and freedom songs, spirituals, and the Ghanaian concept of “Sankofa”—looking back to learn how to move forward.

Portrait photo by Nisha Sondhe.