Jen Starsinic brings earthy original music to Black Sheep
Jen Starsinic, who will perform at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews today, April 26, is a young musician who is making her way through the music business in compelling fashion.
She is a recent graduate of the prestigious Berklee School of Music where she studied under accomplished artists such as Darol Anger, Bruce Molsky and Mark Simos.
Some music fans may have seen Starsinic perform with the David Mayfield Parade, where she brings her fiddle skills to the band. But, she is also a songwriter, singer and guitarist, and that will be the focus of her solo show on Saturday.
Starsinic quickly made her mark as a songwriter in 2011 when she won 2nd place and $5,000 in the BMI Foundation's Annual John Lennon Scholarship Song Contest for her original composition "It Fell." It is a competition that was started 17 years ago by Lennon's widow Yoko Ono.
When growing up in Pennsylvania, Starsinic began to learn to play the violin as a kid. At an early age, however, she was bitten by the bluegrass and old time music bug.
"When I first started playing violin, I played with my elementary school orchestra, but I never really played classical music because I was never interested in it," said Starsinic. "Then, at some point, when I was 12 or 13, my older brother started playing the banjo. He was always musical, so he got involved in playing bluegrass where we grew up. So, I started going to jams with him and my Dad with my violin. I was like, 'Alright, I'll learn how to play the fiddle,' and I completely fell in love with it. I fell in love with the fiddle, with not having to read music, and playing with other people. I liked the social aspect of it, the interactive social vibe."
Once Starsinic's musical path was set, she made the pilgrimage to West Virginia's Appalachian String Band Festival, an event also known simply as Clifftop. That experience helped to hone her roots music skills.
"A few years later, I went to Clifftop and fell in love, head over heels, with old time music," said Starsinic. "I really started focusing on old time. I went there about five years in a row after that. I started hanging out with Ben Townsend and the guys in the band Fox Hunt the first year, and it became a tradition at Clifftop. Sometimes, I think there is a place in my heart for Clifftop, as in it feels like home. The first time I went to Clifftop, it was the most in love that I've ever been with music. The spirit that people have while playing there, it is like learning music and playing music in its purest form. I don't know, it just woke up something inside of me. It was the closest thing to a spiritual experience that I've ever had, watching the sunrise at Clifftop after playing tunes all night."
It was the community aspect of the bluegrass and old time scene that helped Starsinic to perfect her talent. Instead of watching tutorial videos and learning from books, a lot of her knowledge came from hands-on experiences.
"People in that community are usually so welcoming," said Starsinic. "They are like, 'Hey, girl with a fiddle, come over here!' I was like, 'I don't really know what I'm doing.' They would say, 'That's ok. Sit down and learn how to do it.' I somehow found myself in those situations. In this day and age, when so many people are learning fiddle tunes out of books and stuff, somehow I ended up getting to sit down with great fiddle players and learn from them. It was amazing."
Recently, after graduating from Berklee, Starsinic made the big move from Boston to Nashville. Her first album will be released in a month or so. Between her solo shows and her gigs with the David Mayfield Parade, Starsinic's career is just beginning to blossom.
Starsinic's show at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews is free for all ages and begins at 9 p.m. The venue is located at 1555 3rd Ave. in Huntington. More information can be found at www.jenstarsinic.com.
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