Michelle Ross has played violin since she was a wee lass growing up in Los Angeles. Nearly all that time she has ‘lived with’ a monumental repertory staple: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. This Tuesday, Dec. 27th, she will perform them all—a veritable marathon, clocking over two hours of bowing. Where? At the Upper Westside’s Holy Trinity church. General admission is free.

Unique prep

Gearing up for this marathon, Ms. Ross performed the 27 total movements as single pieces in 27 New York City venues—everywhere from cafes to subway stations—all in 32 days.

This allowed her “to unload the cycle’s architecture, the way that Bach put everything in order, with a specific reason.” So, performing the complete works in a single recital is a natural progression … only undertaken by the fiercely dedicated, most valiant proponents of the musical arts.

Music that changed her

Most violinists will confess having been changed in some way by really getting inside these watershed pieces. Michelle, who plays Bach every day, says she finds “joy and mystery in it every time.

I have spent more time with these works than with any other music, and I am still inspired by them. It’s exciting to know I will have this appetite forever.” How has it changed her? “I have been able to find so much love in music and in performing.”

Awe and reverence

“It’s so soulful.” Michelle is not alone in her awed and lofty views of the partitas and sonatas, which she calls “a rite of passage for a young artist.” Ask any seasoned recitalist or concerto soloist, and s/he will likely adopt a reverent tone and speak in wonderment.

“We all hold these works in an almost-untouchable sphere.” They use words like raw and emotional, visceral and transcendent.

Don’t stay away in droves

The youthful violinist’s outreach and purpose is to bring music to more people—as evidence, the Dec. 27th recital, which is free. “Bach composed this music to play for friends among friends. So, inviting everyone into this really intimate, hyper intense space … that’s when really incredible things can happen.

The energy feels electric.”

‘A punch in the gut’

Will you leave the recital catching your second wind, or perhaps feeling winded, or maybe even feeling like the breath has been completely knocked out of you? Great music has the power to exhilarate and uplift or to (temporarily) immobilize the listener. Listening so closely as to feel an emotional bond with the performer is key. Afterward, a feeling of great loss invades the heart. If you leave yearning for more, Michelle Ross will have hit her target: your solar plexus. “This music is a real punch in the gut.”


Before age six Michelle began studying violin in the Los Angeles public school system, which she acknowledges with deep gratitude.

Her family moved to Toronto, then to Westchester County, close to the legendary Dorothy DeLay, with whom she studied until high school.


In 2012, Ms. Ross received a grant from the Leonore Annenberg Foundation Fellowship for the Performing and Visual Arts. The proceeds funded her first CD, which she calls “a snapshot in time, when your whole body of work is an accumulation of time.” Recording began in 2013, when she was 25. Albany Records will release it in March or April.

Everywhere at once

Michelle Ross is also a composer and writer. Discovering Bach is just one of her websites. She founded and directs Music in the Mountains, a classical chamber music festival in Eden, Utah.

This year she also launched the inaugural season of a chamber music series, part of her Artist Residency at Long Island City’s Eleventh Street Arts Gallery. If she slows down enough to stand still a couple hours Tuesday, Dec. 27th, you’re sure to enjoy an engrossing intelligence in her lifelong pursuit of artistic fulfillment.

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