In Memoriam: Jennifer Bourianoff
ASO's longtime Assistant Concertmaster has passed away.
By Robert Faires, 5:40PM, Thu. Dec. 29, 2011
The Austin Symphony Orchestra has lost a longtime member of its family. Jennifer Bourianoff, Assistant Concertmaster for ASO since 1997, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, Dec. 30, after a virulent strain of pneumonia caused her vital organs to shut down. She was 41.
Bourianoff spent almost half her life with ASO, joining the symphony in her early 20s, not long after she returned to her hometown from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she had earned her bachelor's degree in violin performance. "I came back here because I missed Austin," she told Arts writer Robi Polgar in a 2001 profile in the Chronicle. And once she was back, Bourianoff made the most of her beloved city. A graduate of O. Henry Middle School and Austin High and a student of Felicity Coltman's at the Austin Chamber Music Center, Bourianoff went on to obtain a master's in violin performance from the University of Texas. And in addition to her work with ASO, she played with the Austin Lyric Opera Orchestra and a whole host of chamber music groups: Chamber Soloists of Austin, the Arundel Trio, A. Mozart Fest, Viola by Choice, the Viva Trio (with which she performed at the White House), and Hyde Park Strings, a business that she co-owned with Carrie Owens providing classical music for special events. Bourianoff really made that old violin of hers – a 1801 model made by Giovanni Palencia in Venice, Italy – work, and the results were sumptuous. Polgar described her as "fluid, graceful, capable of a great range of emotions with her instrument," and in 2000, the Austin Critics Table honored her as the Outstanding Musician of the year.
In those hours when she was not playing, Bourianoff was teaching others to play. She provided musical instruction at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, UT, Texas Lutheran University, and the American Festival for the Arts, and her skills in the classroom were as remarkable as those in the concert hall. In 2005, the Austin Under 40 Awards named her educator of the year, and she was recognized as one of the Teachers Who Make a Difference by Fox 7 News. But a more eloquent testament to her work as a teacher came from a friend who posted on Bourianoff's Facebook page that "she loved her students like a mother loves her children."
Not surprisingly, then, friend after friend has paid tribute to Bourianoff's kindness and generosity. One of the most public examples of that came last year after the husband of her friend Sheryl Stack flew a plane into the offices of the Internal Revenue Service and burned down their home. She helped organize a 7-hour musical benefit for Stack and offered a $20,000 violin on loan to her friend's 12-year-old daughter Margaux.
In 2001, Polgar wrote that "Bourianoff has found happiness playing chamber music and living in Austin, adhering to a rigorous schedule of performances, practice, and rehearsals and teaching young violinists and violists in her studio that often sees her working days start early in the morning and last well into the night." We are the better for her presence here, and she will be missed.
Bourianoff is survived by her mother, Linda; father, George; and sisters, Michelle and Angela.
Visitation will take place Friday, Dec. 30, 4-6pm, at Weed–Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar. The graveside service will take place Saturday, Dec. 31, 9:30am, at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, 2800 Hancock, to be followed by a memorial service at 11am at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3208 Exposition. The family requests that memorial gifts be made to Hyde Park Presbyterian Church or the Austin Symphony Educational Fund.