BM St. Olaf College
MM University of Michigan
California native Jelena Dirks is the third generation of professional women musicians in her family. Ms. Dirks began study of the violin at age three, the piano at age four, and began playing chamber music with her mother Chicago Symphony violist, Karen Dirks, at age 10. The next year, she traded the violin in for the oboe. She has two Bachelors degrees from St Olaf College and two Masters degrees from the University of Michigan: one of each in oboe performance and piano performance. In 1999, Ms. Dirks moved to Chicago and began study with oboist Alex Klein. Since that time, she has enjoyed collaborating with many Chicago musicians in numerous performances and projects.
In 2003, Ms Dirks became a member of the Prairie Winds Quintet, joining one of the premier wind quintets of America. Renowned as pedagogues as well as performers, the quintet is on the woodwind faculty of the Madeline Island Music Festival, and has given numerous masterclasses, lectures, and coachings.
An avid lover of chamber music, her chamber performances with Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians have been praised as “polished, technically superb and beautifully balanced. Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as an “accomplished and virtuosic” performer, she is a two-time winner of the Musical Merit Foundation Scholarship Competition. Ms. Dirks has performed in concert on both the piano and the oboe, in recitals, chamber music concerts, and with orchestras across the United States and around the world. She played frequently with the oboe section of the Chicago Symphony from 2004-2009 and is now on the faculty at DePaul University where she teaches both oboe and piano.