Jake Saunders

creator | artistic director | cello

Cellist Jake Saunders is a native of Boise, Idaho. As a performer, curator, educator, artistic director, and new music advocate, Saunders engages diverse communities through inclusive programming and distinctive collaboration.


Saunders is a founding member and the Artistic Director of 208 ensemble, the first professional ensemble in Boise, Idaho dedicated to the advocacy and performance of music written by living composers. Since their inception in 2014, 208 ensemble has presented the Idaho-premiere of more than 40 contemporary works to diverse and enthusiastic audiences. In 2018, 208 ensemble introduced their flagship project, Avant-Garden, designed to commission chamber music annually from emerging and underrepresented composers and cultivate an accessible, collaborative environment for the performance of contemporary art in Boise and beyond. Additionally, Saunders is the creator of Boise Cello Collective, a collaborative project among some of Idaho’s preeminent cellists specializing in the performance of classical, contemporary, and popular music in nontraditional venues. Saunders serves as the group’s director, arranger, and principal cellist. Boise Cello Collective has presented two world premieres, including a quintet for piano and four cellos by Idahoan composer Dave Earnest and “eMerging” for cello octet by Evan Ware.


In September 2016, Saunders was appointed principal cellist of Symphony Tacoma, a position he held until August 2018. Additionally, Saunders has served as principal cellist with the Opera Idaho Orchestra, Boise State University Symphony Orchestra, University of Michigan’s University Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra, the Music Academy of the West’s Festival Orchestra, and the University of Colorado Boulder University Symphony Orchestra.  An active chamber musician, he has been a contributor to the City of Trees Chamber Music Series and Classical Revolution: Boise. Until May 2014, Saunders performed with the Boise Philharmonic and as an inaugural member of the Boise State Graduate String Quartet Fellowship (Ezra Quartet).


Saunders has attended music festivals in the United States and abroad, including the Blackbird Creative Lab, Music Academy of the West, the Castleman Quartet Programs, LyricaFest, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, the Astona International Festival (CH), and the International Music Academy at Pilsen (CZ). Former chamber music mentors include members of the Cleveland, Takacs, Cavani, Zemlinksy, Fry Street, and Ying Quartets, as well as eighth blackbird, Charles Castleman, Laura Bossert, and Terry King.  Saunders has studied extensively with Dr. Brian Hodges, Richard Aaron, Mark Rudoff, and Samuel Smith.


Saunders is currently a Teaching Assistant at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he is pursuing the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in cello performance. Additionally, Saunders holds a MM in music performance from Boise State University and a BM in cello performance from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, where he studied with Richard Aaron.