It’s quite rare to find artists who excel in multiple style, truly excel. Just as it is uncommon to find a musician who performs at a virtuoso level on multiple instruments. The amount of discipline required to command a single style, or instrument, is profound. Mastering more than one to the highest standards is simply extraordinary.
But in young violinist (and fiddler) Tessa Lark, we find just that. Something of a rising star in the classical music world, she had placed high in prestigious competitions, taking silver at the 2014 International Violin Competition in Indianapolis, receiving numerous other awards and grants from respected classical music associations, and even a Grammy nomination in 2020 for solo classical performance. Her touring schedule finds her appearing as a soloist with orchestras all over the world, and with quartets and smaller chamber groups as well.
But bluegrass was first with Tessa, picking up the mandolin to play along with her banjo playing father’s Gospel bluegrass band, Narrow Road, before she could read. Born and raised in Richmond, KY, she started on violin with the Suzuki method at six years old. By 11, she was being driven two hours to participate in the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, who saw great promise in the budding artist. Still a teen, Tessa headed to Boston to study at the New England Conservatory, followed by an Artist Diploma from Julliard.
Even with a challenging classical career, Lark’s love of fiddling has never left, and her upcoming album is one called The Stradgrass Sessions, so called because she had once had the honor to use the 1683 “ex-Gingold” Stradivarius violin as part of the prize for winning in Indianapolis in 2015. What started as a joke about using a Strad to play bluegrass, has become a perfect name for her signature style, mixing elements of traditional fiddle music with her classical training.
The album was actually recorded with a circa 1600 G.P. Maggini violin on loan through the Stradivari Society of Chicago. An anonymous donor has allowed Tessa to perform and record with his magnificent instrument, something few young artists can hope to achieve.
Now she has released a single from The Stradgrass Sessions, with her and Sierra Hull dueting on a tune Sierra wrote called Chasin’ Skies. It shows her to be Hull’s equal in playing the sort of bluegrass-tinged new acoustic music that Sierra writes and plays.
Check it out…
Chasin’ Skies is available now as a single from popular download and streaming services online.
More information about The Stradgrass Sessions should be forthcoming soon.