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Bronx Arts Ensemble marks 50 years of music and education

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NEW YORK — You might say Judith Insell lives a double life. Violinist by night, nonprofit administrator by day. The Bronx native first learned to play the viola in a Co-op City public middle school. It’s a talent that would take her around the world.

“I’ve had an amazing, incredible experience playing viola, either in orchestra or on Broadway or in chamber music,” said Insell, who has performed and recorded with artists like Beyonce, India.Arie, Jessica Simpson and rock legend John Cale of the Velvet Underground.

What You Need To Know

  • The Bronx Arts Ensemble was founded in 1972 by professional classical musicians William and Louise Scribner
  • The organization is currently lead by Executive Director Judith Insell, a Bronx native who is a professional violinist
  • The Ensemble performs concerts at partner venues around the borough and teaches music, dance, theater and visual arts at Bronx public schools
  • Insell has performed or recorded with Beyonce, India.Arie, Jessica Simpson and rock legend John Cale of the Velvet Underground

She is also executive director of the Bronx Arts Ensemble, a 50-year-old organization that brings music and arts education into the lives of Bronx residents. She started there six years ago and took the helm last year.

The Ensemble was founded in 1971 by professional classical musicians William and Louise Scribner, as a way to give back to the Bronx. The organization produces dozens of concerts each year at venues around the borough, and there are education programs at more than 40 public schools teaching music, dance, visual arts and theatre.

It serves thousand of kids every year. There is a broad spectrum of music offered at concerts and school programs — something the Ensemble has been doing since the beginning, despite its classical roots.

“It’s good to express our feelings about all the cultures that are populating the Bronx through the arts that we are presenting, so we are not just going to be tied to one kind of music,” Insell said. “We respond and listen to the communities that we are serving.”

The ensemble was able to power through the pandemic with online concerts and teaching. Insell said a number of in-person events are planned this year as the organization marks a half century of music.

“We have some concerts in March that are in-person concerts. One is at the National Arts Club in Manhattan. We feel it’s really important to bring Bronx culture to other boroughs during our 50th anniversary year,” Insell said. “We are trying to get out there to as many people as we can.”

Find out what’s next on the Bronx Arts Ensemble’s website, as Insell leads the organization into its next 50 years.

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