Performer, Improvisor, and Educator Jacob Means experiments with new sounds while still maintaining a relationship with traditional Appalachian folk music. A versatile musician, Jacob has traveled around the world performing in a variety of settings, from an a cappela vocal ensemble in Shanghai, China, to a bluegrass band at the International Folk Festival in Nitra, Slovakia, to a Free Improvisation ensemble at Jordan Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Jacob was born in Kentucky and grew up in Wyoming surrounded by folk music’s rich aural traditions. He started playing mandolin at the age of eight and a few years later began performing in a Bluegrass band with his father and sister. He joined the choir in fifth grade and continued singing all through his academic studies. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance at the University of Wyoming, Jacob continued to pursue his passion, the mandolin, and received his Master of Music in Contemporary Improvisation at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he was a student of Joe Morris, Anthony Coleman, Dominique Eade, and Hankus Netsky. Jacob was involved in performance, teaching, and community engagement through the Community Performances and Partnerships program at NEC and received an Entrepreneurial Musicianship grant from the school for Project YAFE; creating positive social change through music education, in partnership with the Danilo Perez Foundation.
"In every situation, he is open to discover how he can become the best teacher and musician possible."
- Nicole Lamartine, Director of Choral Activities at University of Wyoming
"He has a unique artistic view. He is a phenominal musician and inspiring human being."
- Lihi Haruvi, Saxophonist
Jacob’s music is highly intuitive and technically precise, and his sensitive playing creates an aural space full of opportunities to experience the unknown. Both collaborators and audience members alike feel the excitement created by that spontaneity. Jacob feels equally at home playing different styles ranging from traditional Bluegrass to modern jazz, and he appears on numerous recordings including The By & By’s Some Bright Morning (2016), Sally & George’s Tip My Heart (2017), The Lihi Haruvi Quintet’s 2017 release, The Stash! Band’s Stash! (2015), and Bill McKay’s New Reasons (2015). Jacob’s compositions and performing style range from deeply emotional and poignant to playful and adventurous. In its clean harmonic language and melodic lines, his music reflects a sense of space inspired by the great Rocky Mountains and clear skies of Wyoming.
Jacob is also passionate about education; working with people of all ages, teaching workshops on improvisation, and promoting active experience and expression in the classroom and beyond. He is committed to bringing his unique approach in music to different communities around the world and creating a rich learning experience for his students. Jacob has taught at the Danilo Perez Foundation, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, RockyGrass Festival, Bighorn Mountain Festival, and The Montana Fiddle Camp. He currently holds a position at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston, teaching in an El Sistema inspired music program. Jacob believes that teaching is a fundamental aspect of his artistry and never stops striving to learn and study music at every opportunity.