Elizabeth Pitcairn (born December 5, 1973) is an American classical violinist. She has concertized widely as a soloist and is noted for performing on the 1720 Red Mendelssohn Antonio Stradivari violin that is said to have inspired the film The Red Violin.
Pitcairn was born into a musical family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her mother, cello player Mary Eleanor (Brace) Pitcairn, received a master's degree from Juilliard. Her father Laren Pitcairn trained to be an opera singer. Her younger brother David played cello, though makes his living as an aerospace engineer. Her great-grandfather was John Pitcairn (19 Jan 1841–22 July 1916), founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. Her grandfather was the Rev. Theodore Pitcairn of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. She is the great-niece of Harold Pitcairn and Raymond Pitcairn.
Pitcairn began the violin at age three and performed her first concerto with orchestra at 14. Her path led her to study violin in Los Angeles with Robert Lipsett at the USC Thornton School of Music. Pitcairn taught at USC Thornton School of Music for 10 years as an assistant adjunct professor. She is currently a member of the distinguished faculty at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles.
While studying at USC, Pitcairn was a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority.
Pitcairn performs in partnership with the "Red Mendelssohn" Violin (Stradivarius 1720). It was purchased as a gift to her by her grandfather in 1990 (for a reported $1.7 million) at auction at Christie's London. It is this auction which is said to have inspired the movie The Red Violin, which won the Academy Award for best musical score in 1999. Appropriately, she is one of few soloists who perform the Red Violin Chaconne, for which composer John Corigliano won his Oscar. Ms. Pitcairn appears on the 10th anniversary edition of The Red Violin - Meridian Collection DVD in a special feature documentary interview.
Ms. Pitcairn is passionate about youth and education. She is the President and Artistic Director of the Luzerne Music Center and Chamber Music Festival in Lake Luzerne, New York. On her tours, she makes time for school visits and gives university masterclasses for aspiring music students. Recently Pitcairn demonstrated the violin to high school students at Lake George Central School in Upstate New York as part of an effort to grow interest in the musical arts.
Pitcairn champions new music, and commissioned a violin concerto from one of Sweden's leading composers, Tommie Haglund, titled "Hymns to Night." She premiered this work with the Swedish Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra in 2005 to public and critical acclaim, and the concert was broadcast multiple times throughout Sweden. The work was nominated for a 2011 Swedish Grammi.
She recently performed for the international press at Christie's of New York, which invited her to demonstrate another Stradivarius, and gave interviews to CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Reuters, WNYC-FM, Scotland's Radio Sound, The Associated Press and The New York Times. Classic FM, Britain's largest classical radio station, requested an interview in December 2007.