Shenandoah Valley-based harpist, Jessica Frost-Ballas, began playing professionally at the age of fourteen. Currently, as a full-time professional performer and teacher, Jessica is in high demand throughout Northern Virginia. She performs with local orchestras, opera companies, and choral societies throughout Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia and has served as the principal harpist with the McLean Orchestra since 2005.
As a freelance performer, Jessica Frost-Ballas is the Valley’s most requested harpist. She adds her music to weddings and events across the area. In the Hampton Roads area, she receives referrals from CMT Event Planning and provides her services to many of their clients. In the fall of 2010, Jessica released her first full-length album, A Season of Carols, a collection of traditional Christmas selections. In 2008, Jessica recorded a track for Madeline MacNeil’s Christmas CD, Heavens and Angels Sing. She will begin recording a second Christmas CD and a CD of religious hymns in the summer of 2011. Jessica is the music director, pianist, and choir director for Middletown Presbyterian Church in Middletown, VA. She also serves as the choir director for the Parish of the Valleys Easter and Christmas Cantatas directing choir members from eight churches within the Parish.
As an orchestral performer, Jessica Frost-Ballas has performed with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the McLean Orchestra and Youth Orchestra, Symphonicity (formerly the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra), and the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra; and under conductors such as Emil De Cou, Thomas Wilkins, JoAnn Falletta, Sylvia Alimena, Wes Kenney, Jan Wagner, Leslie Stewart, Raymond Pancarowicz, Jeff Phelps, David Kunkel, and Scott Nelson. She has also performed with the Shenandoah Valley Choral Society, Front Royal Oratorio Society, Page County Choral Society, the Arts Academy Chorale of Winchester, and Bel Cantanti. Jessica has also been a guest performer with several academic institution ensembles throughout Virginia including the William and Mary Symphony Orchestra, the Mary Baldwin College Choir, the Virginia Commonwealth University Symphony Orchestra, the Salem High School Choir, and the Mountain View High School Choirs.
As a teacher, Jessica Frost-Ballas maintains thriving harp and piano studios in Bridgewater and Winchester, VA. Her students consistently achieve Superior ratings on their annual NFMC Festival performances. Jessica’s harp studio recently performed at the Somerset Folk Harp Festival in Parsippany, NJ and have been asked to return in 2012 for a second performance. She will also be a workshop presenter at Somerset in 2012. Her students have been accepted for college studies at the University of Illinois, Carnegie-Mellon University, Peabody Conservatory, Butler University, Old Dominion University, and Shenandoah Conservatory and have performed with the Governor’s School for the Arts Symphony Orchestra, Bay Youth Symphony Orchestra, Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra, and the Eastern Mennonite University Orchestra and Youth Orchestra. Students have also performed in masterclasses with Ann Yeung, Robbin Gordon-Cartier, Mary Jane D’Arville, and Tula Ruggiero.
In 2009, Jessica Frost-Ballas received her Master of Music in Harp Pedagogy major at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia and her Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance in 2006. While at Shenandoah University, Jessica performed as principal harpist with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Concert Winds, Sinfonia, and the Shenandoah Conservatory Harp Ensemble. Jessica also performed as a soloist with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. In 2004, the Shenandoah Conservatory Harp Ensemble was invited to perform in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Jessica also performed with several other performing groups at Shenandoah including the Dance Ensemble, Shenandoah Choirs, and Shenandoah Summer Music Theater.
Jessica Frost-Ballas also performed extensively in her hometown throughout the Hampton Roads area. She is a 2002 honor graduate of Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia and the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia. As a high school student, she was the principal harpist in the Bay Youth Symphony Orchestra for four years. She was the principal harpist in the Princess Anne High School Chamber Orchestra for three years where she served as president her senior year. For three years, she was the principal harpist in the Governor’s School for the Arts Symphony Orchestra, Baroque Orchestra, and the Opera Orchestra. Jessica was the principal harpist in the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association All-Regional Orchestra and All-State Orchestra for three years. She has performed with several Virginia Beach high school orchestras, bands, and choirs. She served as principal harpist for eight seasons with the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra and for three summers with the Norfolk Tidewater Winds.
In 2006, Jessica Frost-Ballas won the Shenandoah University Concerto Competition and performed the Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf Concerto for Harp and Orchestra with the Symphony Orchestra. She has soloed with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (G.F. Handel Concerto for Harp and Orchestra), Governor’s School for the Arts (W.A. Mozart Concerto for Harp and Flute), Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra (D. Ott The Angel’s Harp), Bay Youth Symphony Orchestra (F. Boieldieu Concerto for Harp and Orchestra), and the Princess Anne High School Chamber Orchestra (A. Vivaldi Concerto for Harp). In 2001, she traveled to Austria and Germany and soloed with the Governor’s School Orchestra da Camera. She has placed in the Trinity Music Festival, Bland Competitions, the Bay Youth Symphony Concerto Competition, the Richmond Concerto Competition, and was the principal harpist at the Shenandoah Performing Arts summer camp. In 2008 and 2009, Jessica returned to Shenandoah as the director of the Shenandoah Performing Arts Camp, where she taught the harpists and led the camp’s Harp Ensemble in addition to her duties as camp director.
Jessica Frost-Ballas began her musical studies on the piano at the age of 5. She studied piano with Patsy Pitts of Virginia Beach, VA and took coaching sessions with Oksana Lutsyshyn Kasparov of Norfolk, VA. In college, she studied privately with Dr. Karen Walker and Dr. Sue Boyd of Winchester, VA. As a pianist, Jessica accompanied students in semester juries at the Governor’s School for the Arts and Shenandoah University. She also accompanied students in competitions throughout Hampton Roads. She was the pianist and celeste player for the Bay Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Princess Anne High School Chamber and Concert Orchestras. She has played piano for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra as part of a side-by-side performance with the Bay Youth Symphony Orchestra. Jessica also played piano in several Senior Regional and All-State Orchestra events. In college, she was the pianist for the Shenandoah University Wind Ensemble.
In 1994, Jessica Frost-Ballas began harp lessons with Hye-Yun Chung Bennett of Chesapeake, VA. After nine years of study with Mrs. Bennett, she began studies with Elizabeth Blakeslee, of Falls Church, VA. Jessica studied with Elizabeth Blakeslee at Shenandoah University until Mrs. Blakeslee’s retirement in 2008. She finished her Master’s degree studying with Bridgett Stuckey of Winchester, VA. She has performed in masterclasses with NSO principal harpist, Dotian Levalier, and Maryland freelancer, Astrid Walschot-Stapp.
Jessica Frost-Ballas maintains professional memberships with the American Harp Society and it’s DC chapter, the Washington Area Folk Harp Society, the American String Teachers Association and it’s Virginia chapter, the National Federation of Music Clubs, and the Chorister’s Guild.