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Jean-Michel Fonteneau

Jean-Michel Fonteneau
Strings - Cello


Franco-American cellist and educator Jean-Michel Fonteneau has dedicated his life to empowering generations of musicians to be thought leaders, global citizens and ambassadors of music by teaching them the musical, personal and professional skills required to thrive in today’s ever-changing and unpredictable world.

Initially a physics major in college, Jean-Michel transformed his professional trajectory after hearing concerts at the 1976 Casals Festival in Prades, France, celebrating Pablo Casals’ 100th birthday. He never looked back and has since accomplished a rewarding international teaching and performing career.
As a founding member of the French string quartet “Le Quatuor Ravel”, he achieved international acclaim with performances at prestigious venues such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and Salle Gaveau in France, and Suntory Hall in Japan. The quartet was awarded prizes at the Evian International String Quartet Competition and the French Victoires de la Musique Classique. With his quartet, Jean-Michel pioneered the first string quartet residency program in France, promoting chamber music education and community engagement.
While on the chamber music faculty at the Lyon Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique between 1990 and 1999, he created a unique curriculum for first year chamber music students focused on the foundational and essential skills of chamber music playing and career building. During that time, his students formed lasting ensembles that have gone on to win prizes at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition among others, build teaching residences and develop recording contracts.
Joining the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1999, he mentored pre-college and college students to success, fostering talent and sponsoring projects that ranged from the study of instrument making to creating concert series, collaboration with neuroscience, and orchestral audition preparation. While chair of the chamber music program at SFCM, he advanced the curriculum and training for the chamber music majors by creating a concert series where the students learned all aspects of concert production, audience development and professional performance.
Now, as an Artist-Teacher at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jean-Michel continues his legacy of excellence in baroque and modern cello instruction.
His students have been accepted to top music schools in the US and in Europe. They have appeared at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, and at summer festivals including Yellow Barn, Verbier Festival and Tanglewood. Former students have not only become professional performers but professional conductors, composers and educators at the collegiate and public school level, making state-wide and national impact.
Jean-Michel has collaborated and performed with renowned performers including Leon Fleisher, Claude Frank, Peter Frankl, Bonnie Hampton, Nobuko Imai, Gilbert Kalish, Kim Kashkashian, Joel Krosnick, Robert Mann, Anthony Marwood, Menahem Pressler, Mark Steinberg, and Donald Weilerstein among others. He has also been featured in concert with long-established ensembles including the Danel, Escher, Fine Arts, Pro Arte, and Tokyo Quartets, as well as Martin Lovett of the Amadeus Quartet.
He is invited regularly to give masterclasses throughout North America and Asia. He has served on the faculty of Yellow Barn since 2000 and has also performed and taught at festivals including Domaine Forget, Orford Music Academy, Beijing International Music Festival and Academy, and Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society of Madison, Wisconsin.
In addition to performing music written in our time, he performs annually with the Houston-based Music in Context concert series dedicated to historically informed performance on period instruments.

Jean-Michel’s recordings can be found on Albany Records, MSR Classics, Centaur Records, and Musidisc-France labels.

Teaching Philosophy

I believe a life in music requires a self-actualized human being, one who knows their purpose and authentic voice and also has grit, tenacity and resilience. My teaching embraces the whole person and is a holistic approach that explores music making from the inside out.

In addition to a strong foundation in cello technique and musical styles, I address mindset, self-awareness, healthy playing tools, efficient practicing, goal setting, career building and more as it applies to creating one’s professional life in music.
I guide, support, and empower my students where their lessons are designed to fulfill their vision, artistic needs and technical objectives. My cello studio is a nurturing environment where students explore creative expression, try out new projects, are safe to take risks and engage in community where their classmates become colleagues and friends for life.