Regina Carter has had a profound impact both on the worlds of violin and jazz. It was my honor to sit down Regina for this rare, extensive, and candid interview.A recipient of the MacArthur (AKA “genius”) Award,
I’ve followed Regina’s music closely for for twenty years, and was delighted by how down to earth and honest she was willing to be while covering a lot of ground. For example, she addresses her beginnings as a jazz violinist, the transition to jazz from Suzuki/classical training, as well as how playing music for hospice patients has informed both how she derives meaning from music and connects with every audience.
You can listen to the full interview below and/or subscribe for all episodes of Creative Strings Podcast, exploring intersections between violin, music education, and culture.
In this interview, more topics covered include:
– The balance between approaching musicianship via theory vs ear, explaining how she personally finds this balance and offers encouragement to players desiring to communicate with soul.
– On early reactions from the classical teachers:
“I had a quartet masterclass with Yehudi Menuhin… One of the other teachers said, ‘She wants to play jazz. She’s gonna ruin her career!’ And Yehudi just picked up his violin and played a little blues lick and said, ‘Leave her alone.’ I’ll never forget that! It was like God had spoken. And I just knew then… When the calling chooses you, you can’t ignore it.”
– On the journey of her career:
“I remember having a conversation with someone once, they were (referring to) another jazz violinist who was up and coming, and they said, ‘I hope she gets there. I hope she makes it there.’ And I said, ‘Makes it where?’ The fact that any of us are doing this, we’re making it, you know? .. If you’re doing something you love, you’re making it. There is no ‘there.’”
Growing up in Detroit, Regina began her violin studies at the age of 4 and grew up to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, only to transfer to Oakland University in Michigan to study jazz. After a season abroad in Germany, she returned to the U.S. and first came into the spotlight as the violinist for the all-female pop/jazz group, “Straight Ahead.” She has since continued her career in New York, releasing albums and playing in many other ensembles. Today she continues as an avid educator and performer in Maywood, New Jersey with her husband Alvester Garnett.
On improvisation and creativity:
“You might not play a whole bunch of notes on a solo. You might not play as fast as this guy. You might not play hip. Be you- play what you play. What I usually play is very simple, but, if I’m out of my way and I’m trying to let the music flow through me and connect to the spirit, if you will, then it’s okay.”
Thanks so much to our sponsors Yamaha and Electric Violin Shop for supporting the Creative Strings Podcast. Their support makes it possible to invest in the production of each episode and bring you great stories like Regina’s.
Watch the extended conversation on YouTube:
Clips Used in This Episode:
Regina Carter is truly an inspirational role model for students and colleagues alike. I hope you’ll share this interview with your students- and maybe even bring into the classroom for discussion.
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