My Top 5 Picks for Contemporary Female Violinists

violin in art

A listing of my five (5) favorite female violinists, along with a few biofacts and a little bit of background information on how I discovered these fabulous musicians.

(1) British Violinist Vanessa-Mae

Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson is a British violinist known simply as Vanessa-Mae (?? Chén Mei). She was born October 27, 1978, to a Singaporean mother and a Thai father, but she was adopted by a British citizen and was raised in England. At the age of 4, she started playing the violin. My discovery of this talented violinist was accidental. Several years ago, I joined a music club so that I could buy world music at discount prices. I heard her play a song that was very popular during my teenage years. In fact it was one of my favorite pop songs and hearing her play it brought back a joyful memory for me. The name of the musical piece was “Classical Gas”, which was composed and originally performed by Mason Williams. When I heard her play it, I became an instant Vanessa-Mae fan. So I bought some of her albums to add to my music library. Her album sales were so phenomenal that in 2006, she was considered one of the wealthiest entertainers under 30 in the United Kingdom. Ms. Mae calls her musical style “techno-acoustic fusion.” I call it mind-blowing!

(2) American Violinist Karen Briggs

My late husband introduced me to the new age music genre and one of the best selling artists in this genre is Yanni. While listening to a televised Yanni concert that he was video taping (his hobby) so we could re-watch the program over and over, I was introduced to this fantastic female violinist: Ms. Karen Briggs.

Ms. Briggs is also known as the “Lady in Red”. She was born on August 12, 1963, in Manhattan, New York. She was blessed to come from a family of musicians. She started playing the violin at age 12 and at age 15, she decided that she wanted to play professionally. I had never heard of this virtuosa until I watched her solo performance on Yanni’s Live at the Acropolis concert. I could say she was splendid or even magnificent. But if you saw her perform you would say the compliment was insufficient. There are no words to sufficiently describe her. She toured with Yanni for thirteen years. Her latest performance was in 2019. She was invited to perform in Iraq and she was the only woman in the ensemble. Unfortunately because of COVID-19, her 2020 live performances have been canceled until further notice.

(3) Irish Violinist Máiréad Nesbitt

In America, we are fortunate to have a PBS station (Public Broadcasting Service) which airs most of the Celtic Woman concerts. I love these remarkably talented female singers. They voices are magical, even heavenly. Máiréad Nesbitt (pronounced like “parade” with an “M”) does not sing. However, this adorable violinist appears as a solo violinist at all of Celtic Woman concerts. Her parents are both music teachers and all of her siblings are musicians. She has been playing the violin since the age of six. The NY Times describes her as “A demon of a Fiddle Player.” I know they mean that as a compliment. However, I think the best word to aptly describe all of the performances that I have seen is … electrifying! She lights up the stage and literally dances all over the place while she’s playing. You can’t take your eyes off of her. Fans are encouraged to follow her Twitter feed (@MaireadNesbitt) to keep up with her activities.

(4) American Violinist Lindsey Stirling

My youngest daughter told me that it was impossible for me to say that I liked female violinists and not know about Lindsey Stirling. So I looked her up on YouTube. OK! So now I can say that I like female violinists. Ms. Stirling was born on September 21, 1986, and attended junior high and high school in Arizona. She is not only an excellent violinist, be she is a composer and a dancer.

According to her true life story, she said in an interview with NewMediaRockstars, an online magazine which shines a spotlight on successful YouTubers, “…ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wished that I could dance, but my parents said, ‘You [can] choose violin or you [can] choose dance, but we can’t afford both’”. She chose the violin, i.e. her parents paid for and supported her violin playing. However, when it came to being a dancer she didn’t give up her dream. It’s just that her parents didn’t pay for dancing lessons. Her YouTube music videos are enchanting; especially the Christmas videos. She started her YouTube channel in 2007 and she presents her very own choreographed violin performances. The YT channel is the best way to keep up with her.

(5) Lebanese Violinist Hanine El Alam

Once again my late husband gets the credit for discovering this jewel. He was searching for either Arabian music or Arabian artists (another hobby) and found Hanine El Alam. Words to describe her performances? Exotic. Exciting. Exhilarating. In a 2017 article published by Scene Noise, she is described as follows:

Hanine El Alam is a fiercely talented and diverse violinist from Lebanon. Her “performances” are hardly just that; they are dazzling, larger than life spectacles, featuring adorned dancers, magnetic collaborations and a full band blending techno, Latin and Arabic flavors — not to mention the razzle-dazzle wardrobes. Her music videos are equally as dramatic and extravagant.”

That quote says it all. I could not have said it better. For more about her, she has an official website and you can find her on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

Do you have a favorite female violinist?

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